Making Sense of the Kelvin Benjamin Trade

The NFL trade deadline passed yesterday and it was about as active of a trade deadline as I can remember the NFL having in some time. Maybe ever. A number of trades went down, or almost went down in the case of the Cleveland Browns and the Panthers were one of the teams involved.

It was a pretty quiet day for Panther fans overall. The team has a history of making some trades, but most of the time they are limited to draft day trades of picks for other picks and trades for guys towards the end of the preseason when rosters are getting shaped. Marty Hurney’s most famous trade was the Greg Olsen for a third round pick, but that happened over the summer during the middle of the 2011 offseason. Dave Gettleman traded for Jared Allen in 2015 about three weeks in, but neither GM has made much of a splash at the actual deadline before. Most fans were really hoping the Panthers would spring for a guy like TY Hilton or Vontae Davis to help propel the team forward towards a playoff push, but deep down, most fan’s expectations were pretty anchored down that the front office would likely stand pat. It was a pretty safe bet.

What ended up happening took everyone by surprise. Around 4:12 pm, twelve minutes past the 4:00pm deadline, Adam Schefter dropped the bomb:

Wait…..what?!

My friend Josh and I kept making jokes during the day, that the Panthers had just made a trade for (fill in the blank here), but we obviously never took each other seriously. I happened to pull Twitter up a minute or two after the news broke and did a double take. At first, I thought it was a fake tweet because there was just no way the team would make a move like this.

Reality set in pretty quick.

Alarm bells went off for me. First thing I did was lean over to Josh’s desk to tell him. I made sure to clarify that this was NOT a drill, but my tone and face pretty much told the story. The news spread throughout the rest of the office like a virus in the jungle. Push notifications, alerts and word of mouth sent the entire floor into a state of disbelief. It was wild. There were so many questions that people had and just not enough answers. Why did we do this? What did we get in return?

The return question was answered pretty quickly:

The why came shortly after:

My immediate reactions were really heavily skewed towards hating the trade and everything about it. I was very upset in the moment and I didn’t want to write about it without more perspective so I made a conscious decision to sleep on it. Now that I have had the opportunity to do that and listen to the reasoning from various people, I’m happy I made that decision and I’m much more prepared to offer a balanced take.

Here are my main thoughts and takeaways

1. The timing is weird — My initial shock/outrage of the move almost had everything to do with the timing of the deal. Sure, some of my anger came from my emotional attachment to Benjamin as a fan. You never like to see players your team drafts and develops just get shipped out without warning, but you really don’t want to see your team ship out the #1 WR on the roster when you’re in the thick of a playoff race and your offense is struggling. The player’s reactions were all pretty telling once the deal was made. KB was clearly well liked in the lockerroom and the move certainly took everyone by surprise. Shaking things up isn’t always a bad thing, but risking the chemistry by trading away a big weapon halfway through the season is a bold move

2. It makes sense financially — Kelvin was in the last year of his rookie scale contract. Dave Gettleman did exercise his 5th year option that are available to front offices for first round draft picks. That option was picked up back in March and is valued at $8.5 million for 2018, but after that expires, Kelvin was set to be a free agent. It just so happened, that Devin Funchess’s contract was set to expire after the end of 2018 as well which meant the organization had a decision to make. It was unlikely that the team would extend or retain both players and since extensions are handled the majority of the time before the final season of said contract starts, those conversations would have needed to been had a few short months from now. Marty Hurney opted to keep Funchess who arguably has higher upside and carries a cheaper price tag next year. That made KB expendable and Hurney went ahead and got something in return for later.

3. Does it improve the team? — From a talent perspective it does not. Funchess might be younger and have higher upside, but I do think that KB is the better player right now and the best receiver on this team. Taking away the best player at a position on your team is questionable, to say the least, for a team firmly in the thick of a division race. Personnel wise, I understand the reasoning. KB and Funchess are very similar players and neither one of them are taking the top off of a defense. The Carolina offense has been built to win games with great running and chunk plays in the passing game and right now, teams are matching up one on one with KB and Funchess because they know neither will beat them deep. They may keep one safety back to help in coverage, but defenses are routinely lining up 8-9 guys in the box to pressure Cam and stop the run game. Carolina has speedy guys in Shepard, Samuel and Clay that aren’t seeing the field because KB and Funchess have been dominating the snaps. Samuel, in particular, needs more snaps because his upside is so high and he has a 4.31 40 time to boot.

At the end of the day, I think the team got less talented in a pretty critical time of the season. The silver lining we can lean on is that Carolina has had a lot of success without Kelvin Benjamin and removing him for different types of personnel may help the team down the stretch. And hey, we get Brenton Bersin back again so.

 

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