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Report: The Patriots Were Offered a Chance to Trade for Stefon Diggs and Turned it Down

Billie Weiss. Getty Images.

Just on the odd chance that you weren't already doubled-over nauseous enough by the great cosmic-knee-to-the-groin that was watching the Buffalo Bills playing in a game that was owned by the Patriots for eight consecutive years, here's some news that should really put a clamp on your yambag and give it a twist.  

On March 16th, Stefon Diggs was traded from Minnesota to Buffalo. Almost a full month after he'd made it clear he wanted out of Minnesota and I dreamed wondrous dreams about how he'd be a perfect fit in Foxboro:

He ended up being one of the major weapons that fell into the wrong hands and changed the balance of power in the AFC East. Now we find out Diggs was offered to the Patriots at the same time that the Vikings were talking to the Bills about him.

Source - Sources say that when the Minnesota Vikings were poised to deal star receiver Stefon Diggs on March 16 in a blockbuster trade that included a first-round pick, it was the Bills and New England Patriots as the two final suitors.

Before Minnesota received four picks -- including a first-round pick -- from Buffalo for the playmaker, the Vikings called New England to give them a chance to match or improve the offer. When Bill Belichick and the Patriots declined, Diggs was off to the Bills.

In a rare win-win agreement, the Diggs-to-Buffalo trade was one of the key factors that landed the Bills in the AFC Championship Game against the Chiefs. Several sources broke down how it all happened this week. …

[A]t 2:46 p.m. on March 16, Diggs tweeted: "It's time for a new beginning." And teams began calling. …

Minnesota never intended to trade him, but had a number in mind of what it would take if it did. At about 3 p.m., offers came in.

For the Bills, they had inquired about Diggs during the trade deadline during the season, targeting him along with Mohamed Sanu and Emmanuel Sanders. …

So GM Brandon Beane and his staff, which had previously done homework on Diggs, began calling again. …

 What they found, sources say, was not a disgruntled receiver. Instead, they found a competitor who wants to win, plays hard and wants the ball, but mostly wants to win. They felt he needed a fresh start, but wasn't a bad person at all. …

A few hours later, Minnesota determined the offer from the Bills was the best. Minnesota checked with New England, which wouldn't match. The lack of weapons for quarterback Cam Newton was an issue all season for the Pats.

And about 9 p.m., a deal was struck. Incredibly fast for a trade.

And Diggs became a rock star in Buffalo with 127 catches for 1,535 yards and eight touchdowns, with 20 catches of 20 yards or more.

And for those of you scoring along at home, 15 of those catches, 234 of those yards, three of those touchdowns, and four of those catches of 20+ yards came at the expense of the team that turned down the Vikings offer. Just, you know, to put some dung-tipped bamboo spikes into the bottom of the tiger pit that was the 2020 Patriots season. They could've had their hands on the most significant and game-changing player to come into the division this year. Who, like I'd already said, would've been an ideal fit. But then what 127-catch, 1,500-yard receiver wouldn't? 

I mentioned the date of March 16th a few times, and not by accident. The deal to Buffalo was struck at 9 p.m. Just about 12 hours later, Tom Brady said his goodbyes to New England. It's a stretch to say there's a cause and effect there. Saying that Brady found out a talent like Diggs was available but his team turned him down so that was some kind of final straw for him is bold claim. Especially since Brady himself has said he knew 2019 would be his last in Foxboro before he ever reported to training camp. But at the same time, the timing of this is a hell of a coincidence. It's hard not to connect those dots and think that, if the Pats had made Minnesota a competitive offer for Diggs and got him, Brady might have reconsidered. As opposed to the prospect of throwing to a 34-year-old Julian Edelman, N'Keal Harry, Ryan Izzo and some undrafted depth guys posing as WR1 and WR2. 

All we can do is speculate what would've happened if they did land Diggs. The Bills paid a premium rate for him, the 22nd overall pick, plus a 5th, a 6th and a 4th this year. The Patriots could've countered with the 23rd pick (which they ended up trading for a 2nd and 3rd, naturally). There's precedence there, as they had no problems giving up the 32nd overall pick for Brandin Cooks three drafts earlier. And using the 2019 32nd on Harry. (Heavy sigh as I gather myself.) And they ended up making 10 selections in all, meaning those later round picks wouldn't have been a deal breaker. So a deal with Minnesota was at least plausible.

What I'd love to know, but never will, is how those negotiations went. Did Belichick hear about the buy-in price on Diggs and felt it was too rich for his blood? Was he simply never consider it? Cackle hysterically and then hang up while they were in mid-sentence? Say, "Hold on, I'm putting my GM on the phone" and then put it in front of Nike the dog? 

It's possible that at that point in the offseason he already knew he wouldn't have the cap room to accommodate Diggs. Brady's #Braxit hadn't happened yet, but he still had to know he couldn't make fair market offers on his free agents like Kyle Van Noy or Elandon Roberts. And wouldn't have anything to spend even on the quarterback spot until all the opt outs freed up some room. So perhaps even then he was regarding this as a Taint Year, with or without Brady. And that throwing a bunch of draft capital at one player, even a impact stud like Diggs, was not in his team's best interest. 

I don't know. But sitting here right now I wish like hell he had. And I have no doubt Bills Mafia is grateful he didn't. If nothing else though, it would've been nice if he'd taken Brandon Beane up on his interest in Mohamed Sanu. That might've helped undo the worst trade he's ever made. This non-deal for Diggs could be the second worst. We just can't have nice things, I guess.