Analysis

How Stefon Diggs’ Extension Could Hurt Buffalo Long-Term

How Stefon Diggs’ Extension Could Hurt Buffalo Long-Term

On the morning of April 6th, the Buffalo Bills and Stefon Diggs reached an agreement on an additional 4-year extension that would keep him on the team until 2027. This contract came about due to the re-setting of the wide receiver market this offseason that began with Christian Kirk’s free agent deal and continued with Tyreek Hill and Davante Adams receiving big deals with their new teams. Their extensions added pressure to other franchises to give their star receivers unforeseen pay raises to match the market. 

Diggs’ deal breaks down as a 4-year extension that is worth $104 million with an average salary of $26.1 million. This is tacked on to his already existing deal with 2 years left, which brings his contract number to a massive 6-year, $124 million commitment. 

This contract is indicative of the mantra and culture Brandon Beane and the Buffalo Bills front office have established since the start of their regime. They work with players and reward those who display leadership and produce on the field. Diggs has outplayed his current deal, and with the shift in the wide receiver market he was looking to be fairly compensated.

“You have to give the Buffalo Bills a ton of credit for compensating Diggs when the market changed dramatically,” said former NFL General Manager Mike Tannenbaum. “From a team aspect, you have to draw the line at when and where you’re willing to allocate long-term money for future cap endeavors. This deal is celebratory and concerning in this sense.”

The largest concern with this deal is the precedent this sets going forward with Buffalo when it comes to contract extensions. Usually players and teams get into extension talks when there is one year remaining on a deal. In this case, Diggs had two years left, which had him locked down until after the 2023 season. This contract might have ripple effects when other key players in the Bills organization are seeking extensions. They could use this as leverage in negotiations when discussing future commitments with more than one year remaining on a current deal. 

Josh Allen’s extension kicks in in 2023 and is set to expire at the finish of the 2028 season. His cap hit floats around the $40-to-$51 million mark throughout the duration of the contract. As the salary cap increases, this deal becomes more team-friendly throughout its length. The precedent this Diggs’ deal leaves is that as the market of a position group goes up, the immediate pay of a star player has a direct correlation. The disregard of the years left on Diggs’ deal could allow players such as Allen a bargaining tool to negotiate earlier than expected due to the market increases. The message is a double-edged sword in that the Bills will pay players what they’re worth, but now relinquish some timeline leverage when negotiating large contracts with star players.

Another concern with this contract is the age of Diggs when his extension finally kicks in down the road. Typically, large contracts that play out into a player’s early-to-mid 30s tend to see a decline in return on investment when it comes to skill positions. Diggs will turn 33 and 34 during the final two years of his contract, where he will most likely make north of $26 million per year under this contract. This type of investment is betting on his production into his mid 30s, when players tend to decrease in explosiveness and succumb to injuries more often.

This deal is indicative to the relationship Buffalo has established between their players and the front office. Although these actions may have an impact on the timeline of future deals, the example Buffalo is setting shows why players have begun to see this place as an attractive destination. The honesty and integrity shown by paying players what they are worth and finding the right deal for both sides is exactly what Beane has set out to do. The initial reaction to this deal is a positive one that stems from a sense of loyalty and honor, while the long-term success relies on the ability of a future aging receiver to stay productive with top tier money.