Kelvin Benjamin

Bills Notes: Lawson, McCarron, Peterman, Benjamin

Although Bills defensive end Shaq Lawson has said “all the right things to the media” this offseason, including saying recently that he knows he’s on the trading block and has to get better, he apparently still isn’t in good standing with the team, according to Vic Carucci of the Buffalo News. Carucci writes that he’s “not buying” Lawson’s supposed turnaround and says that “parting ways with Lawson makes perfect sense” as “he’s not remotely close to being a good fit on Sean McDermott‘s team.”

Lawson, a first round pick in 2016, could find himself out of a roster spot after just two seasons. While Carucci thinks the Bills will try and trade Lawson, he doesn’t think they’ll get much for him, writing the “rest of the NFL recognizes that Lawson is on borrowed time and will likely offer little or simply wait for him to be released.”

Here’s more from Buffalo:

  • While Carucci thinks “Nathan Peterman looked good” during OTAs and minicamp, he doesn’t “fully buy the narrative that he’s soared to the top of the depth chart and is the front-runner to start.” Despite the offseason hype that Peterman has received, Carucci still thinks A.J. McCarron is the favorite to start.
  • Wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin could be “setting himself up for a big contract” if he plays well in the final year of his deal, according to Joe Buscaglia of ABC 7 Buffalo. Buscaglia thinks the Bills will want to lock up Benjamin longterm if he can stay healthy, but writes that the team won’t “commit to him until he shows well, if he develops strong chemistry with [Josh] Allen, or a fair bit of both.”
  • Carucci thinks the Bills will look to add a pass-catcher during training camp. The Bills are a bit thin at receiver and Carucci thinks GM Brandon Beane will be aggressive, saying he thinks he will “as he did last August, look to add a receiver or two.”

Bills To Wait On Kelvin Benjamin Extension

Kelvin Benjamin is entering his contract year, but he won’t get a new contract right away. The Bills plan to wait a bit before getting into extension talks with the wide receiver, GM Brandon Beane tells WGR (Twitter link). 

Benjamin, 27, came to the Bills in a buzzer-beating trade deadline deal with the Panthers last year. Although Beane is plenty familiar with Benjamin thanks to their time together in Carolina, he wants to see how the wide receiver gels with offensive coordinator Brian Daboll and quarterbacks A.J. McCarron and Josh Allen before discussing a long-term pact.

For now, Benjamin remains under contract for 2018 for $8.45MM, per the terms of his fifth-year option. He figures to be the top receiving target in the offense as he is joined by second-year pro Zay Jones and veterans Andre Holmes and Jeremy Kerley on the WR depth chart.

In eight games for the Panthers last year, Benjamin totaled 32 grabs for 475 yards and two touchdowns, numbers that were roughly in line with his previous work. However, he had just 16 catches for 217 yards and one score in six contests for Buffalo.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC Notes: Hopkins, Gordon, Bills, Lewis

Even with poor quarterback play for much of the year, Texans wideout DeAndre Hopkins has solidified his place in the top tier of NFL receivers. At 25 years old, Hopkins eclipsed the 1,300 yard marker and has managed double-digit touchdowns in a season for the second time in his career. But perhaps one of the most impressive things about Hopkins is that he’s never missed a game. The former first-round pick has played in 79 straight contests, but that streak is expected to end on Sunday, reports Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle (Twitter link).

Wilson notes that Hopkins is currently dealing with a calf injury and was forced to miss practice on Thursday afternoon. It’s not a good sign when a player misses practice late in the week and that is no exception even for a player like Texans number one wideout. Hopkins produced perhaps his best season yet in 2017 because of the offensive situation he had to deal with. It’ll be a shame if he doesn’t end up going on Sunday because of his ability to make insane catches at any time, like the one he pulled off against the Steelers in Week 16.

Here are more stories we’re following from the AFC as Week 17 approaches:

  • While Melvin Gordon‘s Week 17 status was more uncertain at the beginning of the week, it appears as if the talented running back is “optimistic” he’ll be able to go on Sunday, a source tells to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link). The third-year back is dealing with an ankle sprain, but swelling is minimal, according to Rapoport. The Chargers would love to have Gordon available vs. the Raiders because their playoff hopes are still very much alive. The team does not have much depth behind their surefire number one back with Branden Oliver representing the only true backup on the depth chart. The Chargers have not signed an additional runner to the roster just yet, so it appears as if the team may think Gordon will be able to give to a go this weekend.
  • The Bills also face a must-win scenario in Week 17 in order to make the postseason. Two critical players in wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin and cornerback E.J. Gaines have been dealing with injuries throughout the week, but both look like they are trending in the right direction with gameday fast approaching, according to the team’s website. “He looks like he’s ready to go,” said head coach Sean McDermott of Gaines. The rookie head coach was hedging his bets a bit more regarding his number one wideout, stating that, “He practiced today and did some good things, we’ll get a better feel tomorrow.” In order to reach the playoffs, Buffalo needs to beat Miami on the road and get a Ravens loss, or have the Titans and Chargers both lose on Sunday afternoon.
  • Bengals longtime head coach Marvin Lewis is currently working through heavy speculation that he will be relieved of his duties come Monday morning. However, the coach told reporters yesterday that he has not discussed his current contract situation with owner Mike Brown, per Katherine Terrell of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Terrell passes along that the two do speak everyday. So if they do talk about his future with the team, they are not making it public at this time. The Bengals have fought through what will be the Bengals second straight losing season, and without any playoff wins to show in 15 years with the franchise, it appears likely the two sides will part ways at some point this offseason. Though it should be stated that Lewis has been able to stick around for this long even with an 0-7 playoff record to his name, so I guess anything is possible.

Kelvin Benjamin Has Torn Meniscus

Some confusion emerged about Kelvin Benjamin‘s status on Monday, but Sean McDermott belatedly confirmed a torn meniscus is sidelining his top wide receiver.

The first-year Bills coach first said Benjamin didn’t tear a meniscus but then clarified that is what the injury is, Mike Rodak of ESPN.com tweets. McDermott said he initially thought a question about a meniscus tear was regarding ligament damage, which the coach said has not occurred in Benjamin’s injured knee.

McDermott called Benjamin “day-to-day,” which seems slightly optimistic considering the injury happened eight days ago. This injury generally shelves players for weeks.

The Bills have not gotten much from their No. 1 pass-catcher after making a deadline-day deal to acquire him. Benjamin has missed two of the four games of his Bills tenure and has four catches as a Bill. Buffalo nonetheless beat the Chiefs in Kansas City on Sunday and remains in the thick of the AFC wild-card race.

WR Notes: Bills, Titans, Gordon, Jeffery

Residing atop the “In the Hunt” section of AFC playoff picture graphics, the Bills will have a tougher time rebounding from their rough road trip to Los Angeles. Kelvin Benjamin isn’t traveling to Kansas City with the team, per the Bills, due to a knee injury. This could be the start of a multi-game absence for the former Panthers wideout, who avoided an ACL tear but did not get off free of lingering knee pain when injured against the Chargers. Benjamin has only played in two of the four Buffalo games since the Bills acquired him at the trade deadline. He has four receptions for 62 yards as a Bill.

Here’s the latest on some wide receiver situations around the league.

  • Speaking of playoff-contending teams, the Titans may be without Rishard Matthews because of a hamstring injury. Matthews did not practice on Friday. Categorizing Matthews as a game-time decision for Sunday’s Colts tilt, Mike Mularkey said the team’s top wide receiver was given a day off for rest. Players who miss Friday workouts generally do not play on Sundays. Tennessee’s leading receiver at 626 yards, Matthews has not missed a game since joining the Titans last year. The Titans activated Harry Douglas from their PUP list on Saturday, adding an additional veteran to the mix.
  • Josh Gordon is at his playing weight of 225 and recently blazed to a 4.35-second 40-yard dash while training at N.U.M.A. Speed this offseason, Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com reports. Given his condition and Hue Jackson‘s glowing praise, it should be assumed he’s going to play in the Browns‘ Week 13 game against the Chargers. The 26-year-old pass-catcher said learning Jackson’s offense last year helped considerably in this readjustment period. Gordon can still be drug-tested up to 10 times per month.
  • Doug Pederson was quoted as saying the Eagles would love to retain Alshon Jeffery. But the second-year Philadelphia HC stopped short of saying Jeffery was certain to return. “Alshon’s a guy that you’d love to have continue to work with Carson (Wentz) and have around, and I think it’s a good dynamic to have, and have that stability,” Pederson said, via the Chicago Sun-Times’ Patrick Finley. “If things work out and we can retain him, it would be great for the chemistry of the offense, and, obviously, those two guys working together in the future.” As of now, Jeffery and Jarvis Landry look to be the top receivers on the 2018 market.

AFC Notes: Bills, Phins, Cutler, Broncos, Jets

Though there weren’t many positives to glean from a 54-24 drubbing by the Chargers, the Bills did receive one bit of good news on Monday. Newly acquired wideout Kelvin Benjamin did not tear his ACL in the loss, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports (Twitter link).

Though the injury could force the physical receiver to miss a few games, he should be able to help the Bills, currently tied with Baltimore for the last playoff spot, contend for a wildcard berth down the stretch.

After letting Robert Woods walk and trading away Sammy Watkins in the offseason, Buffalo pulled off a deadline deal with Carolina for Benjamin, who was expected to serve as Tyrod Taylor‘s top target. That has yet to come to fruition with Benjamin catching four passes in two games and Taylor being benched for the first half vs. Los Angeles.

Here’s more from around the AFC:

  • Dolphins QB Jay Cutler is officially in the NFL’s concussion protocol, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link). The Dolphins are 4-6 and mired in a four-game losing streak, so their showdown with New England could be a make-or-break game for their slim playoff hopes. Matt Moore will assume the starting role should Cutler not be fit for the game.
  • After being placed on injured reserve earlier this month, Raiders first-round pick Gareon Conley underwent surgery to repair his injured shin on Monday, NBC Sports’ Scott Blair reports. The cornerback suffered the injury in training camp and aggravated it in Week 3 vs. Washington.
  • The Jets are still holding out hope for the postseason. With that in mind, the team will roll with Josh McCown as the team’s starting quarterback unless injured, reports Newsday’s Calvin Watkins. McCown is on the same page as Bowles and appreciates the vote of confidence.
  • Following the firing of Mike McCoy as offensive coordinator, the Broncos promoted Bill Musgrave to the post and named Klint Kubiak quarterbacks coach, according to Schefter. The offensive coordinator in Oakland the last two seasons, Musgrave helped the Raiders produce one of the league’s most potent offenses in 2016. Kubiak, the son of former Broncos head coach and team senior personnel advisor Gary Kubiak, served as wide receivers coach at Kansas in 2015 before joining the Broncos as an assistant in 2016.
  • Remaining with the shakeup in Denver, Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio writes that John Elway should also receive some blame for the team’s downward spiral in 2017. Florio writes: “Despite efforts to blame the players and, as of Monday morning, to blame offensive coordinator Mike McCoy, and possibly to blame coach Vance Joseph, responsibility for the six-game losing goes to every layer and level of the organization, and the buck ultimately stops on Elway’s desk.”

Trade Notes: Garoppolo, Benjamin, Dareus

With the trade deadline behind us, NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero provided some insight into the completed deals. Notably, the writer discussed the 49ersPatriots trade involving quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. While he initially opined that New England should have gotten a bigger return for the signal-caller, he started to see the logic after talking to league executives.

As Pelissero explains, the team surely would have gotten a lesser return had they franchised Garoppolo and then traded him. Alternatively, had the quarterback departed via free agency, the team would have simply acquired a compensatory pick in the third round.

“They kept the insurance policy,” said an NFL executive. “The risk was greater back in April. It’s less now. And it’s also the deadline. This was their last chance to get the best that they can. … Now, they’re halfway through the season. They know they’re going to lose the player. If they lose the player, even if it’s one of the most outrageous contracts in history, the best they can get is a compensatory third.”

Of course, these executives also touted the 49ers for prying the young quarterback away from New England.

“I give credit to San Francisco,” said one GM, “because in the offseason, four or five teams called (the Patriots) and they said, ‘Absolutely not. No way.’ “

Let’s take a look at some more notes from Pelissero regarding the trade deadline…

  • The Chargers had been shopping wideout Dontrelle Inman since training camp, but they couldn’t find a partner before completing a deal with the Bears.
  • The Marcell Dareus trade was simply a cap dump, with Pelissero noting that the defensive tackle had worn out his welcome among Bills teammates and the coaching staff. However, the Jaguars were seemingly willing to take the risk since his former coach, Doug Marrone, “could vouch for him.”
  • Interim GM Marty Hurney only talked to the Bills before dealing wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin. The Panthers were looking to get more speed on the field, and they weren’t planning on extending Benjamin.
  • A.J. McCarron‘s future will depend on a pending grievance regarding his free agency status. The Bengals backup quarterback is arguing that he should be an unrestricted free agent, but time spent on the NFI list could earn him the restricted tag. Cincinnati had a deal in place with the Browns for the quarterback, but the trade was rejected by the NFL.

Panthers Only Discussed Benjamin With Bills

The Bills and Panthers stunned everyone with a buzzer-beating deal to send Kelvin Benjamin up north. Here’s another surprise: the Panthers did not discuss a potential Benjamin deal with anyone besides Buffalo, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link). 

One would imagine that multiple teams had interest in acquiring a young WR1 like Benjamin. Then again, the Panthers weren’t exactly shopping him hard in the days leading up to the deadline. Before Tuesday at 4pm/3pm CT, Benjamin’s name did not surface in any trade rumors.

The Panthers only negotiated with one team, but they came away with a pretty solid deal. They’ve now added third and seventh round picks to their stockpile for the 2018 draft, and that’s more than they would have received in compensation had they allowed Benjamin to walk as a free agent following the ’18 season. The previous regime led by Dave Gettleman was intent on extending Benjamin and keeping him for the long-term, but Marty Hurney‘s front office did not see a future for the former FSU star in Carolina.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Panthers Trade WR Kelvin Benjamin To Bills

The Panthers have traded wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin to the Bills, according to ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter (on Twitter). The buzzer beating deal comes as one of the biggest trades of the week, and that’s saying a lot for what has been a historically eventful deadline. In return, the Panthers receive Buffalo’s third- and seventh-round picks in 2018, a league source tells Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer (Twitter link). Kelvin Benjamin (vertical)

Benjamin’s name was not involved in rumors leading up to the NFL’s Halloween trade deadline. However, it was the old connection between executive Brandon Beane and Carolina that brought the deal together. The Bills traded away one of the game’s brightest talents in Sammy Watkins earlier this year, but they have replaced him with another big target.

The Bills are off to a 5-2 start with a very real chance of toppling the Patriots for the AFC East crown. The move to acquire Benjamin reads as a go-for-it deal, and Buffalo fans are happy to see that in the wake of the Marcell Dareus trade.

Benjamin, 26, was a first-round pick of the Panthers in 2014 when Beane was in the front office and Sean McDermott was on the sidelines. In that season, he caught 73 passes for 1,008 yards and nine scores. Unfortunately, the 2015 season was lost to injury and the football world is still waiting for Benjamin to replicate that season. The good news is that the health and conditioning problems that were plaguing the Florida State product appear to be behind him. In his half-season for Carolina this year, he has 32 grabs for 475 yards and two touchdowns.

The Panthers previously exercised the fifth-year option on Benjamin, meaning that the Bills will have him under contract through the 2018 season. His paltry $2.44MM cap number will increase to $8.46MM under the option, which is guaranteed for injury only.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Timmons, Fuller, Redskins

The Dolphins made Lawrence Timmons‘ suspension shortlived, reinstating the linebacker earlier this week. Timmons addressed his status, albeit vaguely. Adam Gase also said there’s a possibility Timmons could make his Dolphins debut Sunday against the Saints in London.

To all the fans of the Miami Dolphins and to everyone, I’m just happy to be back here,” Timmons said, via James Walker of ESPN.com. “Sorry to the organization. I’m just happy to be a Miami Dolphin. I just want to play football and be the best I can.”

Timmons declined to say why he went AWOL from the team before Week 2. Gase said he and Timmons “worked through a couple of things,” adding he feels confident the linebacker will be able to contribute to the team. The former Steelers linebacker was said to have visited his old team’s facility during the Dolphins’ Hurricane Irma-induced bye in Week 1. Timmons would be a welcome addition to a Dolphins team that remains thin at linebacker, even after the Stephone Anthony acquisition.

Here’s the latest from around the league.

  • Will Fuller looks set to return Sunday for the Texans, Bill O’Brien said (via Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle). The 2016 first-round pick broke his collarbone during training camp and was expected to be out up to three months. This would put the Texans‘ No. 2 wideout on the front end of that timetable. Fuller will be working with another new quarterback, with Deshaun Watson having taken the reins since the former Notre Dame speedster was last healthy.
  • Kelvin Benjamin also figures to be ready for his team in Week 4. After suffering a knee injury in the Panthers’ Week 3 loss, their top receiver avoided a serious setback. And Ron Rivera, via David Newton of ESPN.com, said barring a setback Benjamin will suit up against the Patriots.
  • Redskins backup offensive lineman Ty Nsekhe will miss three to six games with a core muscle injury that required surgery, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. The 31-year-old has functioned as a part-time player in Washington since 2015, stepping in for left tackle Trent Williams during his four-game suspension last season and working as a reserve so far this year.
  • Linebacker Eric Pinkins worked out for the Cowboys on Thursday, Wilson tweets. Pinkins played in 11 games between 2015-16, for the Seahawks and Giants, before failing to make the Giants out of training camp. The Cowboys have two linebackers on their injury report, Sean Lee and Anthony Hitchens. Neither got in a full practice Thursday.
  • Quarterback Nate Sudfeld may have landed on the Eagles‘ practice squad after failing to make the Redskins out of the preseason, but Philadelphia sweetened the deal for the second-year quarterback. Sudfeld’s practice squad salary is $540K, Joel Corry of CBS Sports tweets. That’s nearly $32K per week, a rather notable increase from the league minimum squad pay ($7,200 per week). He’ll earn more than some of the players on Philly’s 53-man roster. Sudfeld spent his rookie season on Washington’s active roster.