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Kelvin Benjamin Is Headed to Buffalo in Exchange for Third- and Seventh-Round Picks

The fourth-year wideout will be challenged with bolstering one of the worst passing offenses in the NFL

Buffalo Bills v Carolina Panthers Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

After the Carolina Panthers traded no. 1 receiver Kelvin Benjamin on Tuesday, the people most surprised by the move were members of the Carolina Panthers.

The Panthers traded Benjamin to the Buffalo Bills just minutes before Tuesday’s trade deadline in exchange for third- and seventh-round picks in the 2018 draft. If the goal was to shake up the locker room, it’s safe to say that it worked.

Carolina, which already had one of the thinnest groups of pass catchers in the league, is 5-3 and a half game out of first place in the NFC South. The Panthers’ offense has struggled to play consistently this season without Pro Bowl tight end Greg Olsen, who broke his foot in Week 2. Olsen could potentially return to practice this week, but he’ll return to a different—and stunned—team. Benjamin, the Panthers’ first-round pick in 2014, is under contract through next season. Through eight games, he led the Panthers with 475 receiving yards and was third on the team with 32 receptions while adding two touchdowns. While those numbers aren’t eye-popping, they make him the most productive receiver on an up-and-down Carolina offense. With Benjamin on a relatively team-friendly contract ($529,000 cap hit this season, $8.5 million next season) it seems the Panthers consider this trade addition by subtraction. Perhaps they wanted to rattle the players out of complacency with a Halloween scare. Whatever the reasoning, it even shocked the Panthers’ no. 1 fan.

Now even more of the Panthers’ offensive load will fall on receiver Devin Funchess, who has established himself as a serviceable option after a disappointing 2016 campaign, and do-it-all running back Christian McCaffrey, who now will really have to do it all. McCaffrey is already third in the league in receptions with 49, and now might end up leading the league with more targets to go around.

Meanwhile, Buffalo upgrades its receiving corps, which has been the worst in football.

The Bills have watched their passing attack suffer after dealing Sammy Watkins in August in a series of deals that netted a second-rounder, a third-rounder, and cornerback E.J. Gaines after deciding they weren’t interested in picking up Watkins’s fifth-year option for 2018. Now the team has acquired a lesser first-round receiver from the 2014 NFL draft who has already been extended for a fifth season.

The Bills didn’t give up a ton to take on Benjamin, who had conditioning issues earlier this season but is still a 6-foot-5, dominant jump-ball receiver. Even after the trade, the team has a plethora of 2018 draft picks that includes two first-rounders, two second-rounders, and a third-rounder.

Earlier this year, the Bills hired new general manager Brandon Beane away from Carolina, where he had been since 2008. Beane, who was part of the Panthers’ front office when Benjamin was drafted, is gambling on a well-known commodity after shipping Watkins and his injury concerns to the West Coast. At 5-2, the Bills might be gunning for their first playoff appearance of the century, and a boost to their passing offense could be just the thing to get the team over the finish line.