The wheeling and dealing Buffalo Bills and their general manager Brandon Beane have done it again — except this time, they’re acquiring a big name as opposed to shipping one out of town.
The Bills have acquired wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin from the Carolina Panthers. In return, the Bills have sent their third-round and seventh-round picks to Carolina as compensation.
Benjamin, 26, is a 6-foot-5, 245-pound receiver that has been the Panthers top target since entering the league in 2014. Entering the final year of his original rookie contract, the Panthers picked up Benjamin’s fifth-year option, and according to the Charlotte Observer, is due around $8.5 million on the 2018 salary cap.
Benjamin has appeared in games in three out of his four seasons while missing all of 2015 with a torn ACL. In his three combined seasons, Benjamin has appeared in 40 games and has roped in 168 receptions for 2,424 yards and 18 total touchdowns. His lone 1,000-yard season came in his rookie year in 2014.
Benjamin joins Jordan Matthews, Zay Jones, Deonte Thompson, Andre Holmes, and Brandon Tate on the Bills wide receiver depth chart.
Joe B’s Take
Brandon Beane sure isn’t afraid to make a move, is he?
Dating back to training camp, this is now the sixth trade Beane has made to this Bills roster. That list also includes the Sammy Watkins, Ronald Darby, Kevon Seymour, Reggie Ragland, and Marcell Dareus trades.
Except for this time around… the Bills were the buyers, not the sellers — and at a pretty fair price for what they’re getting. Still only 26 years old and signed to a fair contract in the 2018 season, the Bills have found themselves a starting caliber wide receiver to surround the improving Tyrod Taylor with for the rest of the season.
I like the fit for a lot of different reasons, but mainly because this adds a hybrid wide receiver that boasts the size of a tight end, too. If you’ll remember in free agency, the Bills were in on a pair of tight ends to add to the roster even with the presence of Charles Clay on the roster.
Ultimately, they didn’t get them, but there were mismatches to be had along that line of thinking. Benjamin, if he gets going, is a nightmare for opposing cornerbacks with his ability to high-point the football and is an absolute mismatch in the red zone area.
Now, the Bills aren’t getting a stud top receiver right out of the gates here. He was available and traded for a reason, so it’s fair to expect some warts as he gets comfortable in the offense.
Most noticeably, Benjamin sometimes fades to the background when he has a matchup to dominate. Also, as a bigger receiver, he doesn’t have as easy as a time separating from defenders as some quicker receivers do, forcing him to have to depend on his size and physicality to complete the catch — and it doesn’t always work.
That said, this is still a good move for the Bills that dramatically improve their wide receiver depth chart, and also takes some pressure off of Zay Jones by pushing him into more of a depth role. It now gives them the ability to put Jones in the slot, the area of the field that he was so good in during his years in college at East Carolina.
Would the Bills have made this move had they not beaten the Oakland Raiders to get to 5-2? Probably not. But they are, and Beane clearly isn’t ignoring the here and now, while still keeping the future plans intact.
The Bills dished out their own third and seventh-round picks to get the deal done, but are still armed with two first-round picks, two second-round picks, and the Eagles third-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. If they wanted to, they could still cut Andre Holmes, Vladimir Ducasse, and Ryan Davis ahead of Week 10 to get an additional third-round compensatory pick, but that is looking increasingly unlikely as all three players continue to entrench their roles on a 5-2 team.
The Bills understand what they are, and were willing to gamble one of their lowest picks of their top six to take a swing at a player that can help them at a major position of need.
I wouldn’t expect him, especially in a run-first offense, to dominate on a weekly basis. However, it forces opposing teams to account for him and his size on a weekly basis, and the combination of Benjamin, Jordan Matthews, Zay Jones in the slot, LeSean McCoy out of the backfield — and tight end Charles Clay when he’s healthy — gives the Bills a worthwhile offense that can no longer be taken for granted when teams game plan for them.
The bigger point: the Bills recognize this could be the year to get to the playoffs, and they believe they have the defense to do it. Now, they’re arming themselves with an offense that can do the same.
Considering they have a schedule that’s rife with teams that are beatable, finding five wins over the final nine games looks attainable — and that’s likely how many they’ll need to sneak in.
For the cost and the potential of what could be in 2017, this was a risk worth taking -- especially with him being signed past this season.
It's happened quickly, but here we are, folks: The Bills are going for it in 2017.
What a difference two months makes.