Carolina Panthers: Bye Bye Benjamin

TAMPA, FL - OCTOBER 29: Wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin
TAMPA, FL - OCTOBER 29: Wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin /

The Carolina Panthers trade former first-round draft pick Kelvin Benjamin to the Buffalo Bills for two 2018 draft picks.

Carolina is having a roller coaster season thus far, but the Panthers are sitting half a game out of first place in the NFC South. That status may now be in jeopardy with the latest trade out of the Panthers’ front office involving wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin.

At A Glance

Benjamin led the team in receiving yards with 475 on 32 catches with two scores before Tuesday’s trade. After getting picked 28th overall in the 2014 NFL Draft, Benjamin established himself early as a leader in the Carolina receiving corps. However, this trade indicates what little faith the Panthers have in him moving forward.

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Christian McCaffrey currently leads the team in receptions with 49. Devin Funchess has a team-high three touchdown catches along with 33 catches for 357 yards. The Panthers appear to want to press onward with those players as their primary targets with no immediate aid from Buffalo.

The Florida State product joins running back Mike Tolbert, quarterback Joe Webb, head coach Sean McDermott, and general manager Brandon Beane as the latest former Panther to join the Buffalo organization. Benjamin joins Buffalo with the Bills second in the AFC East, looking to challenge New England’s historic dominance of the division.

Buffalo’s receiving corps undoubtedly got a strong presence to the team. The Bills’ two leading receivers prior to the trade were running back LeSeasn McCoy (38 catches, 242 yards) and tight end Charles Clay (20 catches, 258 yards, 2 TD). Benjamin will line up opposite Jordan Matthews (15 catches, 193 yards, 1 TD) to provide an additional spark to their offense.

Moving Forward

The Panthers though, need to press onward. Despite the loss of the team’s top receiver, there may be some indicators that it may have been for the better.

The Carolina administration experimented with trading a receiver away in the interests of giving other players more touches. Former Panther wideout Jason Avant left the team back in 2014. As a result. Philly Brown reaped the benefits with more targets in fewer games than he’d seen prior to the deal.

Putting this year’s team in perspective, Benjamin and Funchess appear to have similar skillsets where having both on the field would be redundant. In addition, the deal opens up opportunities for rookie receiver Curtis Samuel.

Another major point that comes into play in discussing the team without Benjamin involves the season two years ago. When the Panthers placed Benjamin on the injured reserve for the entirety of the 2015-16 season, many questioned Carolina’s chances to make waves without him. The end result was a 15-1 regular season record and a conference championship.

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This will mark either the start of an uphill climb or the beginning of the Panthers’ descent. However, before jumping off the proverbial cliff, remember that the season will continue. Ron Rivera and company brought Carolina to one of its highest points two years ago. The prospect of continuing a solid season now is still alive.