This trade is hard to process because there are still great unknowns—the greatest of which is the health of Kelvin Benjamin’s left knee. He tore his ACL in 2015 training camp and missed the Super Bowl run, struggled in 2016, came into this past offseason overweight for the third time since he began college and was dealing with the same ailing knee in the past two weeks during practice.
If healthy, Benjamin goes to a Bills team that could use a big receiver for Tyrod Taylor to entrust 50/50 balls. At 5-2, the Bills see a real shot at making the playoffs for the first time in 17 years (the longest current postseason drought of any NFL team) and, though Benjamin won’t get a lot of separation, he’s on his way to another 1,000-yard season.
But if Benjamin’s not 100%, the Panthers get to wiggle out of the fifth-year option they inked him to and get a third-rounder (and a meaningless seventh-rounder) out of this. Make no mistake, though: This trade will not please Cam Newton, who has counted Benjamin as a close friend since he was drafted in 2014.
Greg Olsen will be eligible to return from IR shortly, and No. 2 tight end Ed Dickson has stepped up recently. Rookie running back Christian McCaffrey has been a far better pass catcher than rusher so far. And third-year wideout Devin Funchess is having the sort of breakout season everyone expected of him last year.
But remember that Panthers GM Marty Hurney and first-year Buffalo GM Brandon Beane (a former Panthers lifer) are long friends. They’re both looking for a fair trade here. If Benjamin is only worth a third-rounder and peanuts, maybe that says all we need to know about his knee.