The Buffalo Bills spent much of 2017 sending away players and accruing draft picks for 2018. But the team cashed in a couple of those chips this week with a trade to acquire wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin.
Benjamin, 26, should be an instant boost for the Bills offense when he hits the field, although that won’t be Thursday night against the Jets. With 10 more days until the team’s Week 10 game against the Saints, he’ll likely be ready to roll and give Tyrod Taylor the help he so desperately needs.
It was a surprising deal for the Carolina Panthers, who only got third- and seventh-round picks in return for a former first-round pick who has 2,424 yards and 18 touchdowns in about two and a half years on the field.
Why did the Panthers make the trade?
Carolina brass explained that the reason for the deal was a desire to get more speed on the field.
"When you have some vertical speed it gets (defenses) to back off a little bit," Panthers coach Ron Rivera said. "We saw a lot of single safety with the other safety in the box. And we had to do something to help alleviate the pressure on the offense to run the ball."
The Panthers are hoping that Devin Funchess can stretch the field from the “X” receiver position in a way that Benjamin couldn’t. Funchess, a 2015 second-round pick, has had a strong start to the season with 33 receptions, 357 yards and three touchdowns.
Still, the deal shocked most of the players on the team.
“I would be lying if I didn't say it surprised me,” Panthers wide receiver Russell Shepard said Wednesday, via ESPN. “It surprised everybody in the building. It surprised some of the people on the coaching staff.
“It just shows you as much of a game as this is, it's a business. Some decisions, man, they come from left field.”
Cam Newton mostly kept his thoughts about the deal to himself and told reporters “it’s a business.”
With his fifth-year option already picked up, the Panthers were set to pay the receiver $8.459 million. But if the team thinks Funchess is the better player at that spot for the long-term, the team saves money by moving Benjamin elsewhere and gets some compensation instead of allowing him to walk.
Why did the Bills make the trade?
The deal was also somewhat surprising for the Bills, too. Before the season, Buffalo traded No. 1 receiver Sammy Watkins to the Rams and cornerback Ronald Darby to the Eagles. It looked like a team aiming to acquire draft picks, not send them away.
But then the Bills went 5-2 to start the season. With a win Thursday over the New York Jets, the team would move into a tie for the AFC East lead.
While the team traded Marcell Dareus a few days before acquiring Benjamin, the Bills’ focus has seemingly turned from the distant future to the present.
Buffalo is No. 3 in the NFL in points allowed and No. 15 in points scored, and leans heavily on LeSean McCoy offensively. The running back is even second on the team in receiving yards after seven games, behind only tight end Charles Clay, who has 258 yards and has missed two games with a knee injury.
The leading wide receiver is Jordan Matthews with a grand total of 15 receptions for 193 yards in six games played. There are 120 players with more receiving yards than that this season, and that includes Benjamin, who has 475.
A year with low expectations suddenly has a chance to be the first postseason trip for the Bills since 1999, and giving Taylor another weapon, even if it doesn’t come until Week 10, will be a boon for the team’s realistic playoff hopes.