All is not equal with the national media’s coverage of the NFL. Since the Buffalo Bills fell to the Cincinnati Bengals at home during the divisional round of last season’s playoffs, much has been made of wide receiver Stefon Diggs’ sideline and offseason behavior.
I’ve been hesitant to report on the latest news about Diggs, because I find it to be baseless journalism at best. Diggs’ name and reputation is continually sullied while Kansas City Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones is given a free pass, largely ignored by the most influential media outlets. Enough is enough.
First, let’s recap all that’s happened with Diggs since January.
During the closing minutes of Buffalo’s loss to Cincinnati, a very animated Diggs was observed while engaged in a heated discussion towards the general direction of quarterback Josh Allen. Diggs went to the locker room shortly after, gathered his things, and left. After being encouraged to return by one of his teammates, Diggs came back to the locker room but refused to speak with the media.
In the following weeks, Diggs appeared at the NFL Pro Bowl Games, and appeared his usual self. Then the void of an NFL offseason reared its head. There was nothing to do but wonder about those final minutes at Highmark Stadium. And every outlet possible ran with speculative piece after speculative piece about Diggs’ future with the team.
Everything came to a head when One Bills Drive held mandatory minicamp, a three-day event that acts to usher in the new year as a full team. Diggs didn’t attend the first day. The media reported that more heated conversations took place, this time between Diggs, Allen, head coach Sean McDermott and other unidentified parties. The Bills took a calculated risk in having McDermott and Allen both speak to the media about Diggs’ absence. McDermott opened Pandora’s Box when he said he was “very concerned” about Diggs, even though that’s something that he naturally is whenever a player he coaches is dealing with adversity. Then Allen sat before reporters as though a deer in headlights, seemingly caught off guard about all that was unfolding, apparently having less communication than usual with Diggs during the offseason.
Diggs was at minicamp the next day, and the third day was cancelled. Then came training camp — where Diggs set the record straight. All was good. Until Steven A. Smith decided his world didn’t see it the same way. Smith made the decision to irresponsibly state to a national audience that Diggs wanted out of Buffalo, “having lost a level of belief in the organization,” and that Smith’s sources verified to him such was the case.
Diggs responded directly on social media with the following:
100% not true. I don’t know who the source is but I thought i nip this shit in the bud already.— DIGGS (@stefondiggs) August 21, 2023
Rocking wit my dawgs… Bills mafia ❤️ through and through !!!— DIGGS (@stefondiggs) August 21, 2023
Thus ending the drama fabricated by Steven A. Smith. Until Smith doubled down later that day.
Hesitant to show up to training camp? Smith lays out a mountain of hot takes about Diggs, the Bills, and takes Diggs to task about those close to him.
Now let’s compare what’s transpired recently between Chris Jones and the Kansas City Chiefs:
In search of a new, more relevant contract, Jones has gone on record stating that he’s willing to hold out until Week 8 if necessary. He’s currently locked in a battle with the team’s front office, set to enter the final year of his four-year $80 million contract he signed with the team in 2020. For each day of training camp that he missed, Jones was subjected to a fine of $50,000, per the league’s collective bargaining agreement. He skipped the entirety of Chiefs camp. Sitting out during the regular season will cost him even more. That hasn’t stopped most from siding with Jones.
Mahomes has responded to those who’ve asked him to weigh in on the subject, stating:
“I know that stuff, contract stuff, is hard to talk about because everybody wants to make money for their entire family and everything like that, but I know how much Chris loves the Chiefs. He loves being part of this organization.”
That, after Jones posted the following on his social media:
Then offering this reply to a fan who engaged him about when he intends to return:
Week 8— Chris Jones (@StoneColdJones) August 22, 2023
Jones feels he deserves a raise — a contract extension — more in line with the top NFL DTs, following an offseason where numerous players at the position received lucrative extensions, and which now place him eighth among his peers at an annual average of $20 million.
- Dexter Lawrence (New York Giants) and Daron Payne (Washington Commanders) each signed four-year, $90 million extensions
- Jeffery Simmons (Tennessee Titans) signed a four-year, $94 million deal
- Quinnen Williams (New York Jets) signed a four-year, $96 million contract
Jones wants an Aaron Donald-type deal, and — per Sports Illustrated’s Greg Bishop — “the Chiefs “want to pay him, plan to pay him and should be expected to pay him,” before Week 1 of the regular season. Like any marquee player who gets paid before others, they become the highest-paid in history, set to tumble down the ladder as each player at the position signs a new deal.
Jones isn’t the first to be put in this situation, nor is he the only one in the league absent from his team. Additionally, there’s been a fair bit of controversy over the state of the running back position this summer — the elite backs feeling they’re severely underpaid. Perhaps the most noteworthy hold out these days was by Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell, who held out an entire season and was never the same, failing to live up to expectations when he joined the New York Jets. It’s doubtful Jones suffers a similar fate to Bell. Their positions on the grid iron ask different things of their skillsets.
But back to Stefon Diggs. Why does the national media continue to drag his name in mud? Smith has gone so far as to state that Diggs is on his way out of town, even if the logistics of such a move are improbable at best. Somehow, the narrative about Jones is vastly different than that of Diggs.
An air of sympathy seems to wash over most articles about Jones’ discontent with the Chiefs. Jones has said “I can afford it” when taken to task about holding out. But if he’s said he can afford it, while demanding a new contract — it doesn’t add up, especially if, as Mahomes stated, that he’s seeking to earn money for his entire family. Doesn’t lost income hit his bottom dollar, when it means $50,000 a day?
Jones is an incredible player, and he’s made a lot of money already. If he so dearly loves the team, its fans, and the game, why is he willing to sit out almost half a season? Yet the media seems to simply talk of the concern for the Chiefs and their fans, instead of being critical of Jones’ stance. Media members say it’s time to start worrying about the contract standoff, but don’t bother to bring up whether it’s time to worry about Chris Jones the person, as it relates to this situation.
To me, regarding the Chris Jones situation and the media’s coverage — that’s largely fair, though certainly imperfect and blind to self fault. They’re human, so we’ll forgive them of many mistakes. But this sort of coverage... this hasn’t been the standard for every player.
Stefon Diggs hasn’t been given the same benefit of doubt. This, despite zero comment from Diggs saying he wants out, or posturing such with intent to engage a side show to obtain what he wants. All Diggs has done since he’s arrived at One Bills Drive is ball out. He’s done more than anyone could have expected — including playing a key role in Josh Allen’s ascendance. Yet Diggs is a problem and Chris Jones is justified.
Sure, Diggs plays a position that far more people pay attention to, thanks in large part to fantasy football. For the national media to continually frame Diggs in a negative (or back-handed at best) light while choosing to side with Jones... stinks of impropriety.
For now, all that’s news about Chris Jones (and of those in situations like his) continues to fall on deaf ears. That’s true even if his actions prove detrimental to the team and beyond.