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McClain: Diggs trade signifies Texans are all-in while Stroud is playing on his rookie contract

McClain Diggs

John McClain, a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the Texas Sports Hall of Fame, is in his 48th year of covering the NFL in Houston, including 45 seasons at the Houston Chronicle.

When analyzing the Texans' trade for Buffalo wide receiver Stefon Diggs, a four-time Pro Bowl selection with six consecutive 1,000-yard seasons, there are three major factors to consider.

First, Executive Vice President and General Manager Nick Caserio and Head

Coach DeMeco Ryans are taking advantage of quarterback C.J. Stroud being on his rookie contract. Their philosophy is to put as much talent as possible around Stroud as he prepares for his second season and the Texans prepare to become a Super Bowl contender.

Second, with his nine draft choices – as it stands today – Caserio won't have to target another receiver for Stroud unless he's available in a lower round, and they're surprised he's still on their draft board.

Third, expect the Texans to get the very best Diggs has to offer because he'll report for work with a humongous chip on his shoulder to prove the Bills wrong for trading him and to quiet his critics. To provide Diggs with even more incentive, Caserio wiped out the last three years of his contract, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter, which means he can become an unrestricted free agent after next season. Diggs has all the incentive in the world to give the Texans everything he's got.

Now, let's consider these three factors in reverse order. Diggs, 30, is a competitive, expressive receiver prone to emotional outbursts when he doesn't get the ball as much as he believes he should. Too often, he went to social media to express his feelings about the Bills, quarterback Josh Allen and his role on the offense.

Despite those issues, Diggs was a two-time team captain who had more catches in his four seasons at Buffalo than any receiver in the league. He helped the Bills become a perennial Super Bowl contender by being Allen's go-to receiver. As longtime guard Brian Baldinger, who works for the NFL Network, said in his film analysis of the trade, "Diggs is a third-down nightmare."

Diggs' critics point out that his performance faltered over the last 10 games last season, including two in postseason. In their first nine games, Diggs had 70 catches for 834 yards and seven touchdowns. He began the season with five 100-yard performances in Buffalo's first six games.

After offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey was fired and replaced by Joe Brady, the Bills emphasized the run more, and the passing game went through the backs and tight ends more than it did Diggs. Over their last 10 games, Diggs caught 47 passes for 422 yards and one touchdown, including 10 for 73 in the playoffs. He finished with 107 receptions, 1,183 yards and eight touchdowns.

Diggs, 30, is entering his 10th season. He comes to Houston loaded with playoff experience. With Minnesota and Buffalo, he played in 14 playoff games.

Diggs didn't wear out his welcome in Minnesota and Buffalo when he got there, so expect him to be on his best behavior when joining a foursome that includes Nico Collins (80 catches, 1,297 yards, 8 touchdowns), Tank Dell (47, 709 and 7 in 11 games) and tight end Dalton Schultz (59, 635 and 5).

Caserio acquired Diggs, a sixth-round pick this year and a fifth-round selection next year for a 2025 second-round draft choice he got from Minnesota.

Speaking of the Vikings, expect quarterback Case Keenum to have a positive influence on Diggs. They authored the greatest play in Minnesota history – the Minneapolis Miracle in the divisional round of the playoffs after the 2017 season. With 10 seconds left and the Vikings trailing, Keenum threw a desperation pass that Diggs caught on the sideline and turned into a 61-yard, game-winning touchdown against New Orleans.

Keenum, who played a key role in Stroud's development as a rookie, knows Diggs well after they experienced so much success together.

The trade for Diggs affects what Caserio and Ryans will be doing in the draft April 25-27. With Diggs, Collins and Dell as Stroud's top-three weapons, they're backed up by Robert Woods, Noah Brown, John Metchie III and Xavier Hutchinson. They have talent and depth at receiver. Before the trade, there was speculation Caserio would acquire a veteran or use a second- or third-round draft choice on a receiver. That is no longer a need position that requires a lot of attention.

Until Caserio makes more trades – and fans know he will be orchestrating more deals at some point – he has nine draft choices – two in the second round, one in the third and two in each of the fourth, sixth and seventh rounds.

Caserio has signed 13 free agents on defense. He's re-signed four defensive players. Still, don't be surprised if he continues to load up on defense in the draft, possibly using early selections on a defensive tackle, cornerback, safety and linebacker.

The Texans and Caserio are getting universal praise for their offseason moves, the way they're trying to maximize winning while Stroud's is still playing under his rookie contract. Fans of other teams see what Caserio and Ryans have done, and they get depressed. The Texans have added a 1,000-yard receiver (Diggs), a 1,000-yard rusher (Joe Mixon) and two double-digit sack artists (Danielle Hunter and Denico Autry).

When Stroud's friends see him and wonder why he's smiling so much, there's really no need for them to ask because it's so obvious – he's been blessed with offensive weapons who are just about as good as any in the league.

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