For a while now, things haven’t seemed right between the Minnesota Vikings and Stefon Diggs.
He’s appeared frustrated on the field. There was talk of a possible pre-deadline trade during the 2019 season. Now he’s posting a series of obscure tweets that at least appear directed to the team (although you can never trust anything an athlete posts on Twitter).
I like Diggs personally. As an interview subject, he shows you his personality and engages in a playful way. On the field, his production tends to match his high opinion of his own skills.
But the combination of salary cap, offensive direction and last year’s turmoil seem to make this less than a 50-50 proposition. The smart money is on Diggs not being here at the start of the 2020 season.
Forget all the drama for a minute. We can only speculate on that.
The real, legitimate reason why he might be available via trade is quite simple.
Salary cap space.
According to Spotrac, the Vikings are currently at $-12,330,944 for the 2020 season. Overthecap is projecting $-11,366,514. They need to shed anywhere between $12-13m in salary simply to be in the black.
The problem is they don’t have any obvious cuts. The Jaguars can move Marcell Dareus and save an immediate $20m. The Vikings are going to have to chip away at their debt while losing some starters along the way.
Shifting Everson Griffen saves $13m. That’s fine but he had 35 pressures in 2019 — 14th most in the NFL and only one fewer than teammate Danielle Hunter.
They can save $8.1m by cutting or trading Xavier Rhodes. He’s not the same player these days but he has been a long term starter. It’s also worth noting that Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander are both free agents. Are they prepared to lose three cornerbacks?
They could cut Linval Joseph and save $10.4m. Do they really want to move one of the better nose tackles in the league?
Shifting Harrison Smith saves $8.75m yet he’s one of their most important defensive players.
On top of all this, Anthony Harris is a free agent. They will be absolutely desperate to keep him but he might need a salary similar to Earl Thomas’ $13.75m a year.
The options for the Vikings are painful cuts, gutting the roster or accepting the situation and being smart.
This is the kind of situation a team like the Seahawks need to exploit.
They’ve done it in the past. Marshawn Lynch was out of favour in Buffalo, so they got him for a bargain price. Percy Harvin wasn’t going to be paid by the Vikings, so they traded for him. Jimmy Graham’s relationship with the Saints had deteriorated due to the way they handled the franchise tag, so he became available. Duane Brown wanted out in Houston and so did Jadeveon Clowney. The Lions wanted a fresh start in their secondary so made Quandre Diggs available.
Some of Seattle’s best and most aggressive work has occurred when a team is resigned to making a trade. Arguably their worst move — paying a second round pick for one year of Sheldon Richardson — came about because the Seahawks were buyers in a sellers market.
In this situation — the Vikings have to do something. So rather than cut 3-4 key players without getting anything in return, they should cut a deal.
The Seahawks and Vikings have been trade partners in the recent past. Aside from the Harvin deal in 2013, Minnesota also traded up from #40 to #32 with Seattle to select Teddy Bridgewater in the 2014 draft.
So what kind of a trade makes sense for both teams?
What the Vikings need in return
They need to create some cap space. They also need draft picks to fill some of their holes with cheap talent.
This would be a good year to trade Diggs. The draft is loaded with wide receivers. They would have a good opportunity to draft a legit #2 to play across from Adam Thielen.
At the same time, they’d be giving up a top talent. They might need to create cap space but they’re not going to give up a player of Diggs’ quality on the cheap. He had 4623 receiving yards in five seasons plus 30 touchdowns. Even playing with Thielen, he’s managed back-to-back 1000 yard seasons.
It’s only right that they would receive a high pick as compensation.
What the Seahawks need in return
Although their biggest needs are on defense (clearly) they also need to provide more weapons for Russell Wilson. Patrick Mahomes just won a Super Bowl with Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, Sammy Watkins and Mecole Hardman to throw to. Wilson in 2019 had Tyler Lockett and rookie D.K. Metcalf.
Injuries (Will Dissly) and suspensions (Josh Gordon) took away two key weapons. Yet there’s no guarantee Gordon will play again and Dissly, after two serious injuries, needs to prove he can stay healthy.
Giving Wilson another proven weapon — especially one as dynamic as Diggs at a great age (26) — would set up the offense for years to come.
Thanks to the dead cap hit, it would also be a cost-effective move. His $9m in dead money would provide the Seahawks with a cheap addition in 2020. So while it would be expensive in terms of compensation (a high pick) — the salary cost wouldn’t be prohibitive in year one.
He’s also signed until the end of the 2023 season, so there’s long term security on the investment.
The loaded receiver draft class offers a solution too. Yet with the Seahawks needing to challenge right now, you have to weigh-up adding a proven talent versus mere promise and potential.
So what’s the deal?
The Vikings only save $5m by trading Diggs. Here’s the proposal.
Considering the likelihood of Everson Griffen being cut in order to save $13m, the Seahawks give the Vikings their first round pick (#27) and inherit both Diggs and Griffen.
This would give the Vikings $18m in salary cap relief. They would also gain a valuable first round pick.
By making this deal and cutting or trading Xavier Rhodes, they would potentially have enough money to re-sign Anthony Harris on a structured deal that limits the year-one cap-hit. They might still need to do more. Yet at least this move enables them to acquire a high pick to start re-tooling in a cost-effective way.
For the Seahawks they part with a first round pick but still have two second round picks, a third round pick and two fourth round picks to play with. They would pay Diggs about $5.5m in 2020 and Griffen $13m. They’d still have ample cap space to re-sign Jadeveon Clowney and a tight end, or re-sign Jarran Reed (assuming they were willing to consider some difficult cuts as discussed in detail yesterday).
Vikings fans could argue the price is too cheap. Unfortunately, their team has done a poor job managing the cap. Their need to create cap space impacts their leverage. Unless of course they want to cut a handful of starters for no return and simply become a worse team.
Even if the Seahawks had to throw in one of their fourth rounders for Griffen as part of the trade, is it not one that makes sense for all parties? If Diggs and the Vikings are facing a divorce, they receive proper compensation. Griffen appears set to move on anyway because the Vikings are in cap-hell. The Seahawks simply inherit his contract. They need a proven pass rusher and a weapon for Russell Wilson.
This is going to be an aggressive off-season for Seattle and this is the type of move that would typify that. With their two second round picks they could further improve the defense. Could they make a small move up the board, just as they did for Reed in 2016 and acquire Raekwon Davis to provide some traits and size to the interior? How early is too early for alpha dog Kyle Dugger? And round three could be a sweet-spot to add to the offensive line, with potential strong options such as Logan Stenberg, Damien Lewis, Matt Hennessy, Tyre Phillips, Hakeem Adeniji, John Simpson, Lloyd Cushenberry, Prince Tega Wanogho and Lucas Niang.
It’s hard to project trades but this at least feels somewhat grounded in reality with benefits for both teams.
Seattle’s best moves of 2019 all involved trades — moving up for Metcalf and dealing for Clowney and Diggs. A deal of some description feels likely over the next six weeks.
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