Kelvin Benjamin Traded to the Bills
Buffalo Carolina North Bills
The great Panther migration north is in full effect. In a rather shocking move, the Carolina Panthers have dealt their former first-round wideout, Kelvin Benjamin, to Buffalo for a third and a seventh-round pick. Benjamin’s trade continues a trend that has seen several Panthers players become part of the program in Buffalo under new General Manager Brandon Beane. Beane began his NFL career in the Panthers front-office in 1998. Over 18 years, Beane ascended through the Panthers front-office and reached the title of Assistant GM under Dave Gettleman. This offseason, Beane was presented a tough career choice: wait in the wings until Gettelman retires or is fired or accept the Bills’ GM job and begin building his own empire in Buffalo.
Beane took the latter. In May, Beane was named the new General Manager of the Buffalo Bills. He didn’t have to look for a head coach. Carolina’s former defensive coordinator Sean McDermott was a hot commodity in head coaching searches, but ultimately landed in Buffalo. Buffalo hired McDermott in January under previous GM Doug Whaley. After Whaley was fired the day after the 2017 draft, Beane was a natural fit to pair with McDermott. The duo’s first task would be to begin assembling a winning roster. During free agency, the Bills scooped up several former Panthers including Mike Tolbert, Leonard Johnson, Philly Brown, and Joe Webb after he was cut.
Buffalo’s vision is clear under Beane and McDermott. They are obviously trying to instill the culture and brand of football the Panthers used to make their Super Bowl run in 2015. So far they are off to a great start. Currently, the Bills are 5-2 and sit a half a game back of New England for first in the AFC East. Now they have a massive red zone threat in Benjamin to replace Sammy Watkins.
Implications in Carolina
What does the Benjamin trade mean for Carolina? Though they have Devin Funchess, who is of similar size but costs much less, Kelvin was one of Cam Newton’s favorite and most reliable targets. In the red zone, it has been no secret that Cam is looking for Benjamin. That aside, it’s possible that Christian McCaffery along with the emergence of Funchess made Benjamin expendable. There is no denying it. Kelvin Benjamin made an impact in this offense. When he’s on the field, Kelvin has been outstanding. However, in Carolina’s most successful season over that span, 2015, Benjamin missed the entire season with a knee injury. With Greg Olsen set to return from injury in the coming weeks, the Carolina front office must’ve felt this deal is an addition by subtraction.
When Olsen heals, the Panthers offense should be okay, if not more spacious at least. They certainly can’t be worse than they’ve performed this season. Now, Devin Funchess is the primary outside target. Greg Olsen will man the inside with Ed Dickson sneaking around from a second tight end position at times. Across the middle, Curtis Samuel will be the shifty speed threat; similar to the role Philly Brown played on the 2015 team. In the slot, Russell Shepard, Damiere Byrd, and Christian McCaffery. Shepard has speed and big-playmaking ability. So does Byrd. McCaffery is most intriguing out of the slot. The rookie ranks third in the league in receptions. Unfortunately, the speedy back hasn’t seen requisite space to make special things happen. Perhaps removing Benjamin’s big body from the equation will open things up.
Though trading away a first-round pick and top receiving target may look like the Panther’s front-office is crazy. In time, the move could be more beneficial to Carolina than anticipated.
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