A Jettisoned Threat

Ab Stanley

Free agency in the NFL has reached its annual intensity and ferocity. Big money deals, prime time trade and jaw dropping surprises has kept us very interested during this off-season these last couple of days.

Usually moves are made in hopes of clearing cap space, garnering more draft picks or to simply upgrade the rosters. Some moves are made with a different set of circumstances all together.

DeAndre Hopkins and Stefon Diggs are two of the absolute best wide receivers in the league. Both players also seem to have bad blood with either their former teammates or organizations. Well, both will be playing elsewhere next year after they were traded away in two shocking deals.

Hopkins finished the season with 104 catches for 1,165 yards and seven touchdowns through the air. He was playing on a five-year $81 million deal that he signed in 2017 and was looking to restructure the same deal. Head coach and general manager Bill O’Brien thought it be a better idea to send him to the Arizona Cardinals for often injured running back David Johnson and a couple of draft picks.

Texans’ starting quarterback Deshaun Watson is now left without a proven No. 1 one target. There’s plenty of top notch wide receiver talent coming in this year’s NFL draft but the team does not have a first round pick.

Houston can use the added cap space to eventually help sign Watson to a long term deal, but how willing will he be to sign there if the talent keeps downgrading?

Hopkins will provide a massive target for Arizona’s young signal caller Kyler Murray.

A jump ball specialist like Hopkins paired with a dual-threat quarterback can lead to broken down defenses and big plays down field. He’s a game changer that Murray can lean on during tough third down situations and red zone opportunities.

Murray only threw 20 touchdowns as a rookie and his wide receivers only caught 11 of those. Hopkins has had at least 11 touchdown receptions three times in his career and only two seasons where he’s had less than six.

Arizona showed improvement down the stretch of the season and adding a finisher like Hopkins should give them much more of a chance to win games. The Cardinals just made a significant upgrade to their roster, while the Texans have to wonder if they made the right decision.

AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn

For Diggs, he was slowed down a bit by injury in 2019 but still finished with very good numbers. The speedster ended the season with 63 receptions for 1,130 yards and six touchdowns. However Diggs hasn’t seemed that comfortable these past two seasons ever since quarterback Kirk Cousins arrived in Minnesota.

There seemed to be a bit of animosity between the two players. Both put their differences aside and went about their business in 2019, winning a playoff game before the Vikings’ season ended.

On Monday, Cousins received a two-year contract extension to remain in Minnesota. Right around the same time, Diggs sent out a social media message that read, “It’s time for a new beginning”. The Vikings then granted him that new beginning by trading him to the Buffalo Bills for a package of draft picks.

With a younger quarterback in Josh Allen and some other good young offensive pieces, Diggs could be the last link to real success in Buffalo. His ability to stretch the field will garner double teams and leave Allen with a bunch of space to work with underneath.

Buffalo struggled to convert on third down (35.8%) and their wide receivers only combined for 14 touchdowns overall. Diggs can absolutely get behind the defense and can also take short passes and turn them up field for big plays.

Minnesota still has Cousins and a few weapons but losing Diggs is a huge deal. Their offense needed that downfield threat to kept defenses away from Adam Thielen and Kyle Rudolph. Now they will rely more heavily on the run game and Cousins to improvise.

These players will have a tough time adjusting to a new team and similarly, their former teams might have a difficult time adjusting without them. Sometimes these things work out for both sides but how often is that?

Most of the time there’s a winner and a loser and it remains to be seen what side these two players will land on.

Ab Stanley

Atlanta, GA

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