Detroit Lions trading Quandre Diggs a business move, albeit a risky one

USA Today Sports 0 month ago

The NFL is a business. Stick around it long enough and everything feels transactional, from the billions of dollars the league makes to the most minor of moves by your favorite franchise.

Detroit Lions fans should know that better than most. From the retirements of Barry Sanders and Calvin Johnson to last year’s trade of Golden Tate, the organization has a long history of making business decisions.

Well, add another one to the list with Tuesday’s trade of Quandre Diggs to the Seattle Seahawks for a fifth-round draft pick.

Lions general manager Bob Quinn made a business decision to send one of his starting safeties to another NFC playoff contender for a Day 3 draft choice at a time when his team is entering a winnable stretch of games with little room for error after three straight losses.

Diggs was not playing at the same level through six games this year that he did the last two seasons, hence Quinn’s business decision. Missed tackles were a problem early in the year, and Pro Football Focus grades Diggs as the No. 61 safety in the NFL right now, behind Lions teammates Tracy Walker, Tavon Wilson and Will Harris.

But business move or not, this was a risky one for the Lions.

Just 26 years old, Diggs is in the prime of his football career. He was a Pro Bowl alternate a season ago and a captain this year, a player both good enough and popular enough in the locker room to be chosen for that honor.

A number of Lions players took to social media to express their dismay about the move Tuesday.

Darius Slay, the Lions’ best defensive player and someone who got a first-hand look at the business side of football in his contract dispute this offseason, was among the most vocal critics, sending out back-to-back tweets that read, “WTF” with a facepalm emoji and, “This some bull shit here.”

Diggs posted a gif of Kermit the Frog screaming, ‘Yay,” a sign that perhaps there was more bubbling beneath the surface than we know, and Slay retweeted that as well.

To be clear, operating your team as a business is not a bad thing. It’s necessary in a cut-throat league, and the best organization in football, the New England Patriots, has done as much for the last decade, discarding players before they hit their inevitable decline and steadfastly refusing to overpay players who’ve brought them championships.

Quinn, Lions coach Matt Patricia and many others in the organization, of course, come from New England, where they sharpened their business acumen.

But making these moves with a handful plus one of Super Bowl rings is one thing, and making them for an organization that’s closing in on three decades since its last playoff win is another.

Last year, Quinn made two October trades that seemed completely disparate on their face.

One week, he traded a fifth-round draft choice for Damon Harrison, one of the best run-stoppers in the NFL. The next, after a loss to the Seattle Seahawks dropped the Lions to last place in the division, he dealt leading receiver Golden Tate to the Philadelphia Eagles for a third-round pick.

The moves sent mixed messages to the locker room, going all in for help for the defense on one hand and trading away a popular playmaker on the other. Ultimately, they backfired as the Lions lost six of their nine games after the Tate trade and finished in last place in the NFC North.

Trading Tate wasn’t the only factor in the Lions’ second-half struggles last year. They lost two of their top offensive weapons — Kerryon Johnson and Marvin Jones — to season-ending injury. But not having Tate left the Lions short-handed on offense, and the human element can’t be ignored even if players fully understand the business side of the game.

“It’s the NFL, so nothing really strikes me (as odd),” safety Tavon Wilson recalled this week of his feelings in the aftermath of that Tate trade. “I’ve been here a long time and the organization do what they feel is best for the team.”

Last year, Quinn’s moves sent the locker room on a roller coaster of emotion, first up, then down. This year, it’s possible they ride a different wave.

Though the Lions traded Diggs for a future asset — the Lions also gave up a 2021 seventh-round pick in the deal, a sign of how little interest there was in him as they shopped him around the league — I’ve been told quite clearly they are not in sell mode.

It’s more likely, in fact, that the Lions are buyers at next week’s trade deadline.

At 2-3-1, their playoffs hopes are fading, but they like their roster, they like their upcoming schedule and if the price is right they could add help at any number of positions, from running back to pass rusher to, yes, even safety.

That's business in the NFL — as risky as ever.

Contact Dave Birkett at Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.Read more on the Detroit Lions and sign up for our Lions newsletter.

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