Part of writing for or about any sports team, especially in the off-season or early on in a season, is the risk of overvaluing the situation in front of you because the sample size simply isn’t large enough. You can have one game where your team looks awful (a la the Vikings starting the 2015 season, where they looked confused and awful to start the season against the lowly 49ers, losing 20-3, but still ending the season as the NFC North Champions), and overanalyze that game to the point of essentially psyching yourself out for the rest of the year. While we’re not exactly at the one game mark, we’ve only had three games to analyze this season and because of that, some people can think that the product we’ve seen is the product we’re definitely going to get for the rest of the season. Case in point the current “rumors” surrounding Stefon Diggs which from all evidence I’ve seen, seems to be something solely created by the NFL Media to either create drama before the Vikings face the Bears (by a Bears writer) or by Vikings writers considering what it’d take to bolster the defense even further by jettisoning a player that, because of his lack of production through those three-games, is apparently expendable.
Well, I’m here to say that that idea is folly, for so many reasons that you’d think it’d be a non-starter. While I’m not a huge fan of bashing (intentionally or otherwise) the work of other writers,and I get that some authors are writing from a “we should at least consider it!” point of view, every outcome of this theoretical trade would essentially destroy the passing game when it’s clearly already struggling while also mortgaging the future of the team all for what at best would be a marginal improvement on the defensive side of the ball. It just doesn’t make any sense.
On the offensive side of the ball so far this season the Vikings have found most of their success running the ball thanks to the resurgence of Dalvin Cook, who looks like a man possessed after starting his career injured for over 50% of the regular season games he could’ve played in. It was thought that with an actual run game, something the Vikings didn’t have in 2018, quarterback Kirk Cousins could build on the early success he had in 2018, especially via play-action passes (something he’s been known to excel or depending on who you ask, the one thing he’s known to excel at) and the Vikings would have not only a complete team, but one of the more dangerous offenses in every facet to finally mirror what they’ve had on the defensive side of the ball.
So far things haven’t exactly worked that way as Cousins essentially had the worst game of his career Week 2 against the Green Bay Packers and beyond that has been a glorified game manager in the other two games so far this season, which perhaps uncoincidentally were also games that the Vikings have won handily. That focus on the run game and Cousins’ struggles/apparent demotion have lead people to either create rumors/opine about receiver Stefon Diggs and his future with the team mostly thanks to the fact that Jacksonville corner Jalen Ramsey has requested a trade and the idea of someone of Ramsey’s pedigree joining Mike Zimmer and his defense has some people in the Vikings writing game salivating.
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) March 16, 2019
Unlike before, when his younger brother posted a ‘Welcome Home’ image on his Twitter with Diggs in a photoshopped Redskins uniform, these “rumors” as far as I can tell, are created out of whole cloth or the fact that some writers are terrified of a blank page, the deadlines that it implies and the clicks they need to get to justify their existence.
That’s not to say that it’s necessarily a bad thing for established writers to discuss potential trade scenarios, a la Adam Patrick (of TheVikingAge.com), which was essentially an exploratory piece that was well done. That’s totally fine, in my opinion. What isn’t fine, is someone like the Chicago Bears “writer” (that I won’t link to) who somehow convinced some people that Diggs was unhappy in Minnesota and wanted a trade due to a lack of utilization and even, some issue with his helmet. Who knows, maybe he wants to create controversy the week that his team faces Diggs and company, or maybe he’s naive enough to actually think that the Bears could end up with Diggs, a player who has had some of his best catches/plays against Chicago:
Either way, let me take a second to address the idea of trading Diggs.
Okay…more like ten seconds.
Outside of the “rumor” that Diggs is unhappy with his, let’s be honest’ disproportionate contract (at least in terms of output and not potential), which there’s no actual evidence for… The only reason you’d trade Diggs before the deadline would be to improve a team that believes they’re on the precipice of a Super Bowl run. But tell me. How would weakening what is the thinnest position on the team that is also currently the largest question mark about this Vikings team (due more to the play of Cousins than Diggs) improve the team as a whole?
We shouldn’t have to, but let’s delve into that further.
The Vikings brass has made it clear over the past couple seasons that they believe they’re in the midst of an open window of opportunity to make a deep playoff run. Going as far back (at least it feels like ages ago) as the trade for Sam Bradford after Teddy Bridgewater’s devastating knee injury, the powers that be in Eagan have shown time and time again that they believe they’re one move away from getting over the hump that this team has repeatedly failed to clear over it’s 50+ year history. So, it’s not out of the realm of possibility for the Vikings to make a move before the trade deadline, especially if there is some sort of catastrophic injury to a thin position group.
The Vikings also have had injuries and suspensions at the cornerback position, so if you’re simply some flyby writer from Chicago perhaps it’s not that surprising that you haven’t actually watched the Vikings play this season and thus have no idea how this team is playing or how they need to actually improve (although you’d think that Bears fans would be as aware of our concerns at the QB-position as we are of their anxiety about Trubisky). That could mean, to those who don’t pay as much attention as we do, that since the Vikings have the best one-two punch at receiver they are thus just stacked at the position. Diggs has also shown some selfishness from time to time, with the helmet removal during the Packers game being fresh in most people’s minds. So if the Bears writer is that smart, perhaps he’s trolling at the right time? Which considering the fact that I’m talking about it, as have others on KFAN and on other Vikings sites that I respect, clearly is the case.
But if you scratch beyond the surface of this, it clearly, again, makes zero sense.
Sure, so far this season (a whopping THREE games), the Vikings receivers have been relegated to the back seat as the Vikings rely on their amazingly successful run game. Dalvin Cook is starting the season much like Thielen did last season, with three back-to-back 100 games (the first Viking back to do that since Chuck Foreman in the ’70s). On top of that, the Vikings (seem) thin(ner) at corner (than they are, or at least than the results have shown), despite all the top draft picks used on the position before and especially during Zimmer’s tenure as head coach.
It’s that combination that has lead some (that I respect) to say that the Vikings should trade Diggs for Jalen Ramsey, who objectively is a top corner in the league. Ramsey has reportedly requested a trade from the Jacksonville Jaguars, who reportedly are looking for AT LEAST two first-round picks in exchange for Ramsey. The problem is that the Vikings don’t technically need Ramsey. Sure, Holton Hill is suspended, Mackenzie Alexander is out for a few more weeks and Mike Hughes is coming back from an ACL. However, who would Ramsey replace and what would we do with who he replaced (if that person wasn’t also part of the Diggs for Ramsey trade).
Sure, Xavier Rhodes is always seemingly going down with injuries. However, he’s bounced back each time and despite the jokes that he’s faking injuries just to compensate for getting burned, there have been times (last season) where he does look like he’s significantly injured (I’m thinking of that ankle injury last season) and so he should be viewed as a much more resilient player than he’s given credit for. Rhodes is also very highly paid and while coach Zimmer has stated that Rhodes needs to “play up to his contract”, the Jags wouldn’t want to downgrade at corner for a player that’s one of the highest-paid at his position in Rhodes (if that’s your rationale for trading him, I mean).
Outside of Rhodes, you have the most underrated and in my opinion disrespected player on the Vikings roster in Trae Waynes, who has come into his own as a pass defending corner and also is one of the best run defending corners in the NFL. Sure, his contract is up soon and so the thought of replacing Waynes with Ramsey is intriguing, but at what cost? And considering how well this defense has played in 11 of the 12 quarters this season and how much Ramsey will cost when his next contract is due (compared to Waynes) on top of what you’d have to give up to get Ramsey (as the Jags wouldn’t just trade him straight up for Waynes), and this doesn’t get beyond the what-if stage, either.
What if you didn’t include either in the trade? Then you’d have Rhodes, Ramsey and Waynes on the roster, along with Mike Hughes (who could be the heir apparent to Waynes or Rhodes on the outside or Mackenzie Alexander at the nickel spot depending on what happens after this season). Would you move one to the slot?
Or, the most pertinent question- do you really think this defense even needs that help this season? I’ll get into this in a bit, but I emphasis this season because the Jags are arguably asking for at least two first-round picks, and it’s been said that they might want even more than that. So, you’d most likely have to give up a great player and some high picks for Ramsey, which would hamstring the Vikings next season, meaning that the Vikings would have to believe that Ramsey could help them win sooner than later.
Aside from one quarter this season, the Vikings defense has been arguably the best it’s ever been to start a season. Adding Ramsey and replacing a good-to-great corner who knows Zimmer’s system inside and out, seems like the type of tweaking that the Vikings have done to purely negative results thus far.
Sure, Ramsey is amazing, but Zimmer’s system is complex and there’s no guarantee that Ramsey would just step in and somehow improve on what has been, thus far (outside of the first quarter in the Packers game, which I will admit was an example of a lack of CURRENT cornerback depth) a pretty damn good defense (one that is fifth in the league in points allowed with 15.7, which, remove that one quarter from that Packers game and they’d be allowing a paltry 8.67 points per game, good for second in the league behind the Patriots). Ramsey’s sideline blowout with Jags coach Doug Marrone may be for the right reason (frustration at a loss) but that doesn’t make you feel 100% confident that he would fit in under Zimmer, who has a knack for pissing off his players in the media.
I also emphasized the word CURRENT because Alexander will be back eventually as his elbow heals, Mike Hughes will get better/stronger/healthier each game and Holton Hill will be back after week eight. Outside of Chad Beebe, the Vikings don’t have anyone on the level of Alexander, Hughes or Hill returning at the receiver position. They’re just thin there, not temporarily thin like they are at the cornerback position.
Also, considering cornerback starved teams like the Eagles and Chiefs actually have the need for Ramsey’s services and are both also considered contenders, the market for Ramsey could get even crazier than it already might be. Why do that when you arguably don’t have to? Outside of the difference in salary between Diggs and Ramsey? But, that doesn’t really help much this season as the Vikings are mostly set at every position except for wide receiver, which they proved by bringing back arguably the biggest bust this century in Laquon Treadwell. So, you’d be moving Diggs to open cap space that you arguably only need (as of the writing of this article) for wide receiver help. That’s the definition of some adage that I can’t think of right now. Cutting off your nose to spite your face? Chicken and the Egg? Eh. I can’t think of it so I’ll coin my own it’d be like selling your gas tank for gas money.
Keep in mind, too, that just because the Vikings haven’t “needed” to throw the ball much this year doesn’t mean that they won’t have to at some point. Teams are going to increasingly focus on Dalvin Cook/the run game and by putting more people in the box they’ll leave themselves vulnerable to the passing attack, which despite Cousins’ Week 2 struggles, should make you incredibly excited. The Raiders aren’t a great team, and the Falcons game was record-breakingly odd (with Cousins only attempting 10 passes), so you can’t expect that to be the status quo this season especially as teams get more tape on this Vikings team and begin to force Cousins to air it out to beat them.
Beyond Diggs and Thielen, especially now that Beebe is hurt, the Vikings are incredibly thin at the receiver position and losing Diggs would be objectively catastrophic to the Vikings offense and thus their chance to make a run this season. While Diggs hasn’t put up the consistent numbers that his partner in crime Adam Thielen has, Thielen also isn’t playing in a vacuum. His historic start to 2018 was possible thanks, in part, to the focus that opposing defenses gave Diggs (as they’d rather have been picked apart by Thielen than beat down the field by Diggs (even if that arguably didn’t make a whole lot of sense as Thielen is equally dangerous down the field)). Point being, an offense with Thielen AND Diggs is a lot more dangerous than one with Thielen and Beebe/Treadwell/Johnson/Josh Doctson (when he returns).
By trading Diggs you’d essentially be destroying the pass offense after finally getting the run offense everyone wanted in 2018, making this Vikings team as one dimensional as the 2018 iteration was, just in a different (and arguably a more impactful) way. The Vikings with Diggs are perhaps the most balanced and dangerous team in the NFL (on paper at this point), but should Cousins return to the Cousins that started the 2018 season, this Vikings team could be nigh unbeatable). Adding Ramsey could make an elite defense even more elite, but losing Diggs would make a struggling pass offense a huge liability.
That should go without saying.
If there’s any position thinner than the cornerback position it is and has been the wide receiver position. That’s mostly due to the Vikings inability to find top round talent at the position, with the recently re-signed Laquon Treadwell being a personification of almost a decade of futility at the position.
Outside of Diggs, Thielen and now potentially Johnson, all of whom were late round or undrafted picks, the Vikings have missed on receivers in the higher rounds almost every single time (depending on how good you thought Percy Harvin was (including or excluding what the team got in the trade with Seattle)). I mean, the Vikings literally just brought back Laquon Treadwell, who wasn’t picked up by any other teams, even the New York Giants (who are coached by Pat Shurmur, who knows Treadwell very well). If that doesn’t show you how thin they are at the position, perhaps nothing will.
Whether or not you think the Vikings over-spent their top picks on the corner position (in lieu of bolstering the offensive line, for example), they have had a really high rate of success with their picks. Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes, and Mike Hughes were all first-round picks, with other players like Mackenzie Alexander being a second-rounders. They’ve all lived up to expectation (with the jury still being mostly out on Hughes, who has shown tremendous promise) and because of that, especially when Alexander returns from injury, I’d feel a lot more comfortable with that unit moving forward than the idea of a passing game with Thielen and whomever they’d put next to him.
The reality is that the Vikings really don’t need any help at the corner position and while that could change at any moment, the same reality exists at the receiver position (imagine Thielen going down in general, then imagine that happening and the Vikings not having Diggs). Another reality is that the Vikings would be a lot worse without Diggs than they’d be with him, and considering the lack of talent at the receiver position (and the surplus of talent at the cornerback position (I haven’t even mentioned Kearse, or others) most of which is coming back from injury or will be soon), it makes no sense to significantly lower the talent/output on one side of the ball for what might be at best a marginal improvement (do we expect the defense to give up seven points a game instead of 8?) on the other side.
The cost for Ramsey is just too high to justify what might not even be that big of an improvement (if any) at the position, which sounds repetitive but considering that it’d most likely mortgage the future of a franchise that does a great job of bringing in fresh talent (especially on defense) and that will need to replace it’s core players in a couple of seasons, it just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Unless the Vikings were trading Rhodes/Waynes for Ramsey straight up, but it’s pretty clear that that’s not going to be enough for the Jags.
Long story… Pretty long… At the end of the day, this move would not only be nonsensical, but it’d also actually hurt the Vikings this season and in the seasons to come. That is unless Diggs was pulling an Antonio Brown and hiring a social media team (outside of his brother) to get him out of Minnesota, which again, there’s zero evidence to support outside of some dude in Chicago with too much time on his hands.