Bills’ Stefon Diggs trade is all about extending Josh Allen’s prime

The old Bills are dead.

Rest in peace to an era of Bills football that saw a lot of fireworks and high scoring, while never truly getting over the proverbial hump of making the Super Bowl. Their moves in the offseason have been one of a team that’s getting rid of the old guard, while stepping into a new era. Jordan Poyer, Mitch Morse, Micah Hyde and now, Stefon Diggs will all be playing elsewhere next season.

The Bills star wideout was traded to the Houston Texans on Wednesday, for a meager package of a 2025 2nd round pick. In addition to Diggs, the Bills sent a 2025 5th and 2024 6th round pick to Houston, another signal that they wanted to get their new era underway this year.

While examining this trade for the Bills, it’s fair to wonder if the Stefon Diggs they traded away is the same one they acquired back in 2020.

In 2023, Diggs was fine, but took a significant step back in the Bills offense after coordinator Ken Dorsey was fired. Among players with 40 or more targets during the first ten games of the season when Dorsey was coordinator, Diggs was first in overall targets, 28th in EPA per target and had five games over 100 yards. Post-Dorsey firing was a different story, with Diggs failing to go over 100 yards in any game, posting an EPA per target that had him at 57th among pass catchers with 40 targets and one touchdown. Tack on a hefty cap hit, and it was clear that the Bills are moving into a new offensive era, one that has no need for Diggs. One that’s very similar to a team that Buffalo has been chasing for the last four to five years: the Kansas City Chiefs.

It has been well opined by many (including yours truly) that the Chiefs’ offensive shift is one of the more impressive things we’ve seen in recent memory. Going from an uber explosive, but highly volatile offense to one of the most efficient buzzsaws of modern football in the span of three years is an incredibly difficult needle to thread. They kickstarted this after losing in the AFC Championship to the Cincinnati Bengals, and by trading WR Tyreek Hill to the Miami Dolphins they were able to jumpstart that schematic shift. As teams begin to play so much more two-high defenses, opposing coordinators have three methods of getting teams out of that: being deadly efficient in the quick game passing the ball, getting bigger and bashing teams in the run game, or have a monster QB who can force teams out of that shell by being a plus one in the run game.

Through the first ten games of 2023, Bills QB Josh Allen was third in the NFL in RPO attempts, and fifth in passing attempts between 0-10 air yards. However, as a runner, Allen only had six designed QB runs per Sports Info Solutions. The Dorsey era Bills gameplan was simple: reduce the amount of body blows Allen takes as a runner and emphasize the quick game, turning Allen into the buzzsaw QB that can hit in the short to intermediate areas of the game.

After Joe Brady took over, the RPOs went down, quick game went down, but the QB designed run game went up, as well as the overall run game. The Bills shifted from the first option to more of a mixture between two and three in order to get teams out of two-high. With the Diggs trade, the Bills are betting on coordinator Joe Brady to take the next step in his playcalling, better meshing the run game with what he aims to do in the passing game. Far too often, it felt like the Bills passing game became sort of bland, taking a backseat to a run game that succeeded in the back half of the season. Brady has to continue to improve as a playcaller without the “Stefon Diggs go boom” button, and give his QB more help in passing design.

Which brings us to Allen. This trade is a bet on Josh Allen being a force multiplier in the run and passing game. With Diggs and WR Gabe Davis gone, the Bills targets will now be going to the rag tag group of TE Dalton Kincaid, WRs Khalil Shakir and Curtis Samuel along with RB James Cook. The reason Kansas City didn’t miss a beat in their offensive evolution is that QB Patrick Mahomes also evolved with it. Allen has to evolve his game, whether it be becoming more efficient in the quick game areas and allowing his receivers to make plays after the catch (which Samuel and Shakir are better at), while continuing to mitigate the bozo gene plays. Early in the Allen evolution, Diggs was easy button on offense, being a dynamo who can take over a football game. As Diggs has aged and Allen has gotten better, it’s now Allen who is the easy button for Buffalo in the run and passing game.

Will it lead to two consecutive Super Bowls like it did in Kansas City? Maybe not, but with Diggs gone, Allen and Brady have to continue to evolve.