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How will the hot wide receiver market affect a Stefon Diggs extension for Bills?

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BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Interest in the future of Stefon Diggs' contract is nothing new.

During his first news conference as a member of the Buffalo Bills the subject of a potential contract extension came up.

The Bills' trade for Diggs in March 2020 -- in exchange for four draft picks, including a first-rounder -- came less than two years after he signed a five-year extension with the Minnesota Vikings. They've restructured his deal but haven't given an extension to Diggs, 28.

But now the wide receiver has two years of success with the Bills and quarterback Josh Allen under his belt -- including the first two Pro Bowls of his career -- and two years remaining on his deal that is no longer paying him what he's worth amid a surging market.

This offseason has featured an explosion in big wide receiver contracts with Tyreek Hill ($30 million in average annual salary), Davante Adams ($28 million average) and Mike Williams ($20 million average) leading the way.

“When you look at the top of the market with Davante Adams, obviously Tyreek Hill, they're pushing the market,” former NFL general manager and ESPN analyst Mike Tannenbaum said. “We kind of coalesced around $20-21 million (per year for wide receivers) for a while, and when DeAndre Hopkins went out to Arizona from Houston, pushed it to $27 million. Now ... anywhere between $25 to roughly 30 million a year for Adams and Hill, and based on how Diggs has played, he's certainly in that conversation as well, which is always good news/bad news for Buffalo, which is he's played terrific. He's come over, helped, been part of the solution.

“... If I'm Diggs, I'm thinking I don't want to take anything less than Tyreek Hill or Adams.”

Not getting something done prior to this point is not a major surprise as players rarely receive extensions with two or more years remaining on their current deals.

“I don't think they were gonna make him a priority above anything in free agency,” former sports agent and salary-cap expert Joel Corry said “... They didn't get Josh Allen done until right around the start of training camp, so I'm not sure that I would really fault them for not getting ahead of Davante Adams and Tyreek Hill. ... He's probably going to have a hard time reconciling Christian Kirk is at $18 million per year.”

Diggs is now the 23rd-highest-paid wide receiver in terms of average per year ($14.4 million) and his contract has $40 million in total guarantees, which currently ranks 11th-most among wide receivers.

“We've had open dialogue since the season ended,” Bills general manager Brandon Beane said at the NFL owners meeting this week. “Stef and I have talked a couple times and he's got a really good agent [Adisa Bakari] who I've dealt with before.

“As I said a couple week ago, and I've always said back to Josh's contract or somebody else's, contracts get done when they're supposed to get done. If something gets done at some point this offseason, we'd let you know.”

Allen recently shared his thoughts on the subject in a reply to a SportsCenter tweet:

The Bills have also made no secret about the fact that they’d like Diggs to be part of the team for the long term.

Since signing that extension in 2018, Diggs has the third-most receiving yards in the NFL (4,911), fourth-most receptions (395) and eighth-most receiving touchdowns (33). In his two years with the Bills, he has caught 230 passes for 2,760 yards and 18 touchdowns. His 2020 season included career- and league-highs with 127 receptions, 1,535 receiving yards and eight touchdowns.

In 2021, he caught a career-high 10 touchdowns in the league’s first 17-game season. He has not missed a game since becoming a Bill.

“I want to give all players their respect and a fair pay, whoever it is, and Stef's no different,” Beane said. “... I think the world of Stef, I think what he's brought our team has been great. He's been great for Josh. He's been great for our offense and his leadership has stepped up and we want to see Stef in Buffalo for years to come.”

Diggs’ $17.1 million cap hit this year is the largest on the team. An extension would likely open significant cap space for the Bills, which is needed after signing the likes of Von Miller this offseason. Buffalo has $1.09 million in cap space, second-lowest in the NFL (the New York Giants are 32nd) with other moves available to generate more space, such as restructuring cornerback Tre'Davious White's contract

It helps that Allen has already signed his second deal so that the front office knows what it is working with. There’s no doubt that keeping a player of Diggs’ caliber is important for the Bills success with the team’s ceiling being so high, but Buffalo must also balance that with building the best roster possible. Diggs is the star of the team's wide receiver room, which also features Gabriel Davis, a promising No. 2 option, Isaiah McKenzie and new slot receiver Jamison Crowder.

With players such as Seahawks wide receiver DK Metcalf also up for extensions and overall cap increases to come, getting something done sooner rather than later would be wise.

“The whole market is shifting, he signed a deal in 2018 that he's clearly outperformed,” Corry said. They may want to address that sooner rather than later, because it's only human nature that Stefon Diggs is going to be disgruntled if he isn't already.”

Keeping Diggs under contract as the Bills look to capitalize on a strong roster in the coming years would be a win-win for both sides.

“Stef has done a phenomenal job of changing the culture or helping change the culture,” coach Sean McDermott said. “His competitive nature, his ability to put the team first at a position that is not always know for that -- I think goes a long way in our locker room and us, in terms of the team that we’ve become. ... He works extremely hard at it, and the results are out there.”