The Buffalo Bills swung a surprising trade at the deadline last season, dealing a third round pick and a seventh round pick to the Carolina Panthers for wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin. The Bills thought they were acquiring the last piece to push their offense to the next level, but an unfortunate injury in his second game with the club limited his effectiveness for the rest of the season.
In our next edition of “90 players in 90 days,” we profile the clear number one target in Buffalo’s passing game.
Name: Kelvin Benjamin
Height/Weight: 6’5” 245 lbs.
College: Florida State
Draft: Selected in the first round (28th overall) by the Carolina Panthers in the 2014 NFL Draft
Financial situation (per Spotrac): Prior to trading him, the Panthers had exercised the fifth-year option on Benjamin’s rookie contract. This means that Benjamin will play on what amounts to a one-year deal worth a fully guaranteed $8,459,000 in 2018. That same dollar amount is also Benjamin’s cap hit, making him the fourth-highest salaried player in terms of cap hit on the Bills’ roster.
2017 Recap: The 2017 season was a bit of a wash for Benjamin, as he was off to a solid, if unspectacular, start with the Panthers (32 receptions, 475 yards, 2 touchdowns over 8 games) before he was dealt to Buffalo. Dealing with a knee injury suffered in the Bills’ blowout loss to the Los Angeles Chargers, as well as the difficulties of learning a new playbook, Benjamin only caught 16 passes for 217 yards and 1 touchdown during the regular season with Buffalo. In the Bills’ playoff loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars, Benjamin saw 2 targets, catching 1 for 9 yards.
Positional outlook: Benjamin is the clear-cut number one receiver in Buffalo’s group of otherwise below-average wideouts. Zay Jones, Jeremy Kerley, Andre Holmes, Brandon Reilly, Rod Streater, Austin Proehl, Ray-Ray McCloud III, Malachi Dupre, Robert Foster, Quan Bray, Cam Phillips, and Kaelin Clay round out Buffalo’s training camp receiving corps.
2018 Offseason: Benjamin has been full-go for all offseason activities, and he continued to play with the first team as training camp opened. He has been a consistent target in those first-team drills, and by nearly all accounts, he has been quite impressive thus far.
2018 season outlook: In a contract season, Benjamin should be very motivated to perform. Given the lack of proven options around him, whichever player the Bills decide to start at quarterback should look to Benjamin often. It would be shocking if he doesn’t lead the Bills in wide receiver targets, with only LeSean McCoy or Charles Clay a real threat to take looks away from Benjamin. The big receiver has a chance to earn himself a big contract next spring.