Could the New England Patriots Acquire Stefon Diggs?

Stefon Diggs
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - SEPTEMBER 29: Stefon Diggs #14 of the Minnesota Vikings looks on before the game against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field on September 29, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs could use a change of scenery. The talented wideout is reportedly unhappy in Minnesota and requested a trade a few days ago. Former ESPN producer Mo Chanel reported that the Patriots are inquiring about Diggs, and the former fifth-round pick posted an interesting mix of photos over his various social media platforms.

While Chanel isn’t as well-known as Ian Rapoport and Adam Schefter, this wouldn’t be his first time breaking news. Chanel reported that the Steelers were trying to trade for Minkah Fitzpatrick days before the trade officially took place. It appears like Diggs’ time in Minnesota is coming to an end, so let’s take a look at if the Patriots could acquire Diggs and how they could use him.

Examining a New England Patriots, Stefon Diggs Trade Scenario

It’s easy to see why New England would be interested in a player like Diggs. Based on raw talent alone, Diggs is one of the best wide receivers in the entire league. He possesses the speed to take the top off the defense and has the potential to break off a big play every time he touches the ball.

The big-play element is nice, but what truly sets Diggs apart is his elite route-running prowess. There aren’t many in the league better at using their feet and body language to force separation from opposing defensive backs. When combined with his legs, Diggs has the tools to be one of the most complete, well-rounded receivers in the league.

Minnesota might have the best receiver duo in football, but head coach Mike Zimmer is not using them to their fullest potential. Zimmer wants to be a run-first team, and Kirk Cousins isn’t playing well when given the opportunity to throw. These factors have ruined Diggs’ production, and he’s looking for a new home to maximize his talents.

On paper, New England would be a perfect fit. The Patriots have a solid receiving trio in Julian Edelman, Josh Gordon, and Phillip Dorsett, but they could use another body following the failed Antonio Brown experiment. Diggs is under contract until 2023 and the Patriots have an absurd amount of draft picks in 2020. In theory, New England could just ship over a pick and bolster their receiving corps. However, there’s one big obstacle standing in the way of a Stefon Diggs trade.

Making Money Work

The Patriots are a little strapped for cash at the moment. According to @patscap, New England has just $1.2 million in available cap space. Stefon Diggs, meanwhile, carries a $9.48 million cap hit if traded, according to Over the Cap. $1.2 million is hardly enough to cover in-season expenditures, so freeing up cap space for Diggs won’t be easy.

One of the ways New England can lower Diggs’ cap number is by converting his salary into a signing bonus. If the Patriots do that, then they can lower his cap hit to just over $2 million, according to SB Nation’s Brian Phillips. This makes it easier to add Diggs to the 2019 payroll, but it increases his cap number in the subsequent seasons. Even if Belichick thinks the short-term financial relief is worth it, the Patriots would still need to clear additional cap space in 2019 in order to trade for Diggs.

Acquiring Stefon Diggs would be nice, but it looks like nothing more than a pipe dream. Thanks to New England’s low cap number, the Patriots simply cannot afford to bring Diggs aboard. The Patriots basically had one chance to add a big-name wide receiver, and they placed their bets on Antonio Brown. That wager didn’t work out, as Brown is gone but his $4.5 million in dead cap space remains. Belichick always does his due diligence, so it’s not surprising that the Patriots reportedly reached out about Diggs. However, it’s hard to imagine New England actually making a move considering their current financial woes.

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