ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — The Buffalo Bills have upgraded their patchwork group of receivers by agreeing to acquire Kelvin Benjamin in a trade with the Carolina Panthers.
Carolina acquired Buffalo’s third- and seventh-round picks in next year’s draft in making the deal reached just before the NFL trade deadline on Tuesday.
Benjamin has had spotty production over two-plus seasons. He was selected by the Panthers in the first round of the 2014 draft, but missing the entire 2015 season with a knee injury.
Panthers general manager Marty Hurney said the trade came together just before the deadline.
“Buffalo had expressed interest and we wanted to put more of a mix of skill sets on the field and add some speed,” Hurney said. “We decided it was the right move.”
The Bills are very familiar with Benjamin under new coach Sean McDermott and general manager Brandon Beane. Both previously worked for the Panthers before being hired by Buffalo this past year.
Buffalo is 5-2 and preparing to play at the New York Jets on Thursday night.
It’s the latest significant trade by Buffalo since August, when the Bills dealt starting receiver Sammy Watkins to the Los Angeles Rams and starting cornerback Ronald Darby to Philadelphia. On Friday, Buffalo traded its highest paid player, defensive tackle Marcell Dareus, to Jacksonville.
The trade comes at a time when Buffalo has raised expectations by matching its best start since opening the 1993 season at 7-1.
Though Benjamin is not expected to play against the Jets, he immediately becomes the Bills leading receiver with 32 catches for 475 yards and two touchdowns this season. Overall, he’s scored 18 touchdowns in 40 games, and the 6-foot-5, 245-pound Benjamin provides quarterback Tyrod Taylor a big target, particularly in the red zone.
He has one season left on his contract beyond this season after the Panthers picked up the fifth-year option on his rookie deal.
Benjamin made an immediately splash as a rookie, when he set Carolina franchise rookie records with 73 receptions for 1,008 yards and nine touchdowns and became close friends with quarterback Cam Newton. But the former Florida State star tore his ACL in training camp the following season and hasn’t quite been the same since often battling soreness in his knee and weight issues.
Benjamin returned last season and had 63 receptions for 941 yards and seven touchdowns.
Earlier this season Benjamin got his left knee bent backward in a game against the Saints and did not return. An MRI revealed no structural damage and he returned the following week.
Benjamin had three catches for 39 yards and a touchdown in Carolina’s win Sunday against Tampa Bay.
On the flip side, Benjamin’s loss leaves a huge void in the Panthers passing game, which has not been the team’s strong suit anyway. Last week the Panthers claimed wide receiver Kaelin Clay off waivers from Buffalo. He had been with the Panthers in the preseason.
Devin Funchess would be Carolina’s new No. 1 receiver and Russell Shepard and rookie Curtis Samuel are now expected to see increased playing time. Pro Bowl tight end Greg Olsen is eligible to return to practice this week from injured reserve but can’t play until Nov. 25.
The third-round pick acquired by Carolina was the one Buffalo added along with receiver Jordan Matthews in a trade with Philadelphia. The seventh-round pick sent to Carolina was acquired by Buffalo in a trade that sent backup quarterback Cardale Jones to the Los Angeles Chargers in July.
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