Bills' Josh Allen thanks departed Stefon Diggs for his hard work

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Josh Allen said Thursday that he can't thank Stefon Diggs enough for "for when he came in and how hard he worked and what he taught me along the years."

Allen said Diggs "meant a lot" to him since the Bills traded for the star wide receiver in 2020. The quarterback also noted multiple times that the trade opens opportunities for other players to step up.

"It's definitely hard to part ways with a guy that's been very instrumental in our success here over the last four years," Allen said. "... Obviously, I wish we can keep everybody. You know, we've made a lot of changes this offseason, lost a lot of veteran leadership, Stef being one of them. I guess that's the nature of the business. And going into Year 7 now, it's just kind of is what it is. I don't get paid to make changes on the team. I get paid to be the best quarterback that I can be and try to lead the guys on this team."

Allen also said his lasting memory of Diggs will "be the receiver that helped me become the quarterback that I am today, and I'll always thank him for that."

The quarterback shared his first public comments on Buffalo trading Diggs to the Houston Texans in a news conference after the team commenced offseason activities this week. Allen was aware from offseason conversations with general manager Brandon Beane that trading Diggs was a possibility before the move took place on the morning of April 3.

Allen texted his former top target after the trade and got a text in return. Allen said he was "just thanking him for everything that he did for me and always have a spot in my heart for him. And I'll always love that guy like a brother. And I wish him nothing but the best."

Over the four years the duo was together, Diggs, 30, led the NFL in receptions and was fourth in receiving yards and tied for fourth in receiving touchdowns. He has recorded four consecutive seasons with 100 receptions, tied for the second-longest streak in NFL history (Antonio Brown).

When asked what specifically he learned from Diggs -- who was a three-time captain with the Bills -- Allen cited "the concepts that we were able to put in, the concepts that we're able to run with him, his mentality, the way that he attacked each and every practice, it was very infectious, especially for the young guys seeing that."

Diggs' time in Buffalo ended after a season marked by ups and downs. It started with the receiver's absence from the first day of mandatory minicamp in 2023, which was later clarified by coach Sean McDermott as "excused'' and included multiple public reassurances from the receiver that he wanted to remain with the Bills until retirement. It also included comments from his brother, Dallas Cowboys cornerback Trevon Diggs, on social media focusing on getting his brother out of Buffalo, and Stefon Diggs making his own cryptic social media posts in the offseason. On the field, that was all coupled with a downturn in production in the second half of the season.

Allen said he couldn't explain why the notion of Diggs being unhappy seemed to linger and that "it's something you may have to ask him at some point." The quarterback turned to the opportunity that exists for the remaining and new players.

McDermott also gave his first comments on trading Diggs, noting that he "really enjoyed" his time with the receiver and adding, "We'll miss him. You never replace a player like Stef Diggs and we wish him well. Stef and his family. Hard to move on from a player like that and now we go back to looking at our roster and excited for the opportunity that we have in that room for guys to step up."

Entering his seventh year, Allen is one of two remaining team captains from last season of the eight selected (Von Miller being the other). Both Allen and McDermott noted the focus for the quarterback this season in continuing to grow as a leader, something he is "very excited about."

"As a franchise quarterback, guys that get to their second contract ... you're not getting paid just to be the quarterback. You're getting paid to be the best leader that you can be, the best quarterback obviously comes with that," Allen said when asked what he learned from his relationship with Diggs.

"So, leadership looks like a lot of different things. You wear many hats in this building and sometimes it's not the easiest thing and especially when I feel like I'm one of the guys, and sometimes I have to remind myself that you're looked at a little bit differently. Guys are relying on you a little bit more and understanding that but trusting coaching staff, trusting your teammates around you and having that type of humility, where it's like you're able to say when and where you're wrong.

"And I think that's what we've learned over the last few years, not just with [Diggs], but with other receivers and with other players as well," Allen said. "It's everybody's got a different type of relationship, everybody has something different that makes them tick. And then again I think we're using this time right now to utilize and find what does make these guys tick, what is their reason for playing this game?"