Brandon Beane is man that loves to wheel and deal.
The Bills General Manager looked into adding a wide receiver midway through last season. During that process, he checked in with the Minnesota Vikings about the availability of Stefon Diggs, but immediately was met with a "no."
Fast forward to a few weeks ago, Beane reached out to the Vikings once again on the Monday when NFL teams could begin negotiating with free agents. This time, the conversation went differently.
"We checked back in, it didn’t seem like a definitive, 100% no," Beane recalled on a video conference call with the media Thursday afternoon. "They just said, 'Listen, we're not shopping him. We just agreed to a contract a little over a year ago.' So we talked to them and they just said 'We’ll listen, but it’s got to be something because we need to replace this guy and he’s our No. 1 receiver."
Hours passed that afternoon, with the Bills also having conversations with free agent wide outs. Eventually Beane called back later that evening.
"They were starting to get a little antsy because they were starting to get some pressure and there were some other teams involved," he said. "So we worked on it probably around 9:45 or so and 20 or 30 minutes later we got it knocked out."
The deal would bring Diggs and the Vikings 2020 7th round pick to the Bills in exchange for Buffalo's 2020 1st, 5th, and 6th round pick along with a 2021 4th round pick.
The quesiton some have about the deal is why give up all of that for a WR when this draft class is considered one of the best at that position in years? Beane admits the current climate of the world and COVID-19 did play a part.
"I think it became ever-present with what’s going around us that we don’t know what kind of offseason we’re going to have," Beane said. "I just felt like it was going to be really hard unless I traded up really high to find a guy I know could walk in day one, let’s just say it’s August before we get back to things. I just felt a proven commodity was worth this. The trade value of this move probably moved us up three to four spots from 22, might have gotten us to 18 or 19. Not as high as I thought we would have to get to, to get one of those premier guys that I knew would walk in the door even August 1 and be ready to roll."
"It’s just a more proven thing right now," Beane added. "And, again, what we’re dealing with did weigh into that. I know this guy knows ball, will be able to understand the verbiage once he learns our system quicker than (a draft pick). A lot of the stuff in college is all signaled in. A lot of these guys aren’t in huddles. So, the biggest transition for these receivers, beyond the routes, the physical stuff, is just hearing these long play calls in the huddle and processing it in their head, from as little as ,’Do I go left? Do I go right? Am I on the ball? Am I off the ball? Now I’ve got to start reading what coverage they’re in to know what route I’ve got to do, whether I’ve got to convert.’ All those things, the mental part is so hard. And that’s why I think so many receivers, we talk about it all the time, probably one of the higher bust rates across the league. I think it’s more mental than physical.”
Diggs ends his Minnesota tenure with 365 receptions for 4,623 yards and 30 touchdowns in five seasons. Still, Diggs openly unhappy about his situation with the Vikings and those feelings very much so public dating back to last year. That type of "me-first" personaility does not seem to fit the culture the Bills are built on.
"I think one of the misnomers out there is that we're looking for all choir boys," Beane said. "That's not accurate. We're looking for professionals. I would say this about him: He's a very competitive guy. I mentioned earlier, he's one of the guys we looked at at the trade deadline, so we did some recon there. Terrence Grey was in Minnesota when they drafted him, so Terrence is still very connected there and was around him. There were other connections from people that coached him in college, that we have people on our staff. We did do some digging and again, this guy's a super competitive guy and brings an edge to that position. I know diva gets put into that position a lot. I would not call this guy a diva. I would call him more of, I think what he was referring to Josh Allen is, as a dog. Again, I think he will fit in. I don't know everything that went on in Minnesota. I'm sure like anything, there's two sides to every story. I'm sure there's things that, he probably wishes he would maybe have handled better in retrospect, but it's a clean slate here. We believe in our culture. We believe the facts that we know about him, we believe he will be a fit here."
Now Diggs is added to a Bills offense that saw John Brown post a career-year last season and the 2nd-best numbers of Cole Beasley's time in the NFL. Could that mean a changing of ways from the run-first mentality that has been at the forefront with Sean McDermott as head coach?
"You do have to be able to throw the ball," Beane said. "The key in this league is you have to be able to throw it when other teams know you're going to throw it. You can't control things. Penalties happen, lost yardage, whatever. You're going to be in third and long when everyone in the building knows you have to throw the ball. In those situations, that is an area we have to improve. We don't want to throw it every game. It will still be team specific, opponent specific. If we feel we're playing an opponent who is weak with us running up the middle or running on the edges or the screen game, whatever it is, Brian Daboll and his staff will see that and that's what they will attack. I wouldn't say hey the Bills are going to go out and throw it 40 times a week. But if it's a game where we have to throw it 40 times because we're playing against one of these high powered offense and we have to keep up, that's what we'll do. We want to be able to play any style that we need to. We still want to be rough and tough. We want to host games in January and we want to be able to run that rock when it's windy or snowy. We want to be able to play in all conditions and I think it starts with our quarterback and how he's built physically and mentally to be able to do that."
Beane left the door open to still add pieces through free agency, but as more of the bargain shopping variety.
Now most of his focus is on the NFL Draft, which will go on as scheduled April 23-25.