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.

 

Recap of the Final Roster & Subsequent Transactions Part 2

This is Part 2 of my recap of last weekend and all the moves the Panthers made during and after roster cuts. Read part one here.

Hurney’s Second First Trade: For the first time the NFL adjusted the rules of the cut down process to eliminate the 75 man cut down and just have one cut period where the rosters would go from 90 to 53. As a result, there were a ton of players scheduled to hit the waiver wire/open market all at once. One thing that was pretty noticeable were the amount of trades made league wide. I guess GM’s were trying to get ahead of the market a little bit.

I’m a big trade guy. Those are always fun for me regardless of the sport. Not all trades work out in your favor and the initial transaction isn’t always something to be happy or excited about, but as someone who loves player transactions in general, I love a trade. I love deep diving into a guy trying to figure out how we just landed the missing piece to a future title run and how the new pieces mesh with the existing ones. It’s just fun.

The trade Marty Hurney made wasn’t a big headline grabber, but I like the end result for the team. Hurney flipped WR Kaelin Clay and a 2019 7th round pick for Buffalo 2016 6th round pick DB Kevon Seymour. To be honest, I don’t know much about Seymour other than what I’ve read and watched of him post trade. His stats as a rookie were pretty solid. He made 15 appearances and 3 starts as a rookie last year and only allowed one reception for every 14.8 snaps he had on the field which was the best mark for any rookie DB last season (including James Bradberry & Daryl Worley).

In Seymour, the Panthers inherit a guy with three more seasons of control and can slot in as depth on the outside and inside right away. Given the fact that he’s been working in a Sean McDermott system all summer, the defense under Steve Wilks shouldn’t be too hard for him to pick up. It’ll be important that he’s ready by Sunday since UDFA Cole Luke is dealing with a nagging ankle injury.

The dynamic of the trade interests me as much as anything. Hurney told the press that he was the one who initiated the call to his old buddy Brandon Beane in Buffalo. That makes sense due to Buffalo receiving a pick as part of the return compensation. My guess is that the scouting department under Dave Gettleman had pretty high marks on the kid during the 2016 draft vetting process. Makes me wonder if Dave and the staff were looking at Seymour as a possibility for the pick that ended up going to Zack Sanchez, another 2016 DB draft pick that was waived over the weekend.

When Sanchez was picked, he was marked as a guy that could develop as a nickel corner due to his size and instincts that could also fill in on the outside as needed. His performance as a rookie was certainly less than inspiring and even after playing pretty well during the preseason, he left the Pittsburgh game with a groin injury and was waived without going on IR and wasn’t even brought back on the practice squad. Pretty telling that they were ready to move on from him.

Buffalo is a rebuilding team. They have been selling players like Sammy Watkins and Ronald Darby away for band aid replacements and draft capital. When you look at what the Panthers gave up to get Seymour, it falls in line with what Buffalo has been doing. Kaelin Clay had a nice August and earned his spot on the roster, but the Panthers already have speedy receivers and return specialists in Byrd and Samuel so he was surplus and likely not to get much burn. The 7th round pick was a throw in given that Seymour is the higher ceiling player to even out the trade. The fact that Buffalo got a player back in the deal in general makes me wonder if they asked for someone like Byrd instead and had to settle on Clay and a pick (which they need) when the Panthers politely declined. In the short term, Clay gives Buffalo a deep threat they can rotate in and value in the return game.

All in all I liked the trade for Carolina. It won’t move the needle, but it helps give them quality depth at a spot they needed it.

Working the Waiver Wire: The trade wasn’t the only work Hurney did to acquire players over the weekend. He also spent some time on the waiver wire making a couple of successful claims to add some more depth to the roster.

The most notable move he made will be the one the provides the least amount of impact up front and that was picking up the rights to Brad Kaaya. The Lions took Kaaya in the 6th round of this year’s draft and opted to go with Jake Rudock as the backup instead. I personally like the move low key — it still doesn’t make me miss Joe Webb less — but I like it. My faith in Derek Anderson has been waning along with most of the fan base the past couple of seasons and I have felt that it might have been in the Panthers interest to have invested a late round pick in a developmental QB the past couple of years.

Carolina is lucky to be set with a franchise QB, but having a young backup you can develop is never a bad idea. They may not start, but if they show out in camp or spot snaps here or there, they become a tradeable asset. Carolina hasn’t had a young QB in the pipeline since 2011 when they drafted Cam. Jonathon Jones of SI mentioned that Hurney was a big advocate of Kaaya pre draft while he was still hovering around the media prior to reclaiming his GM post. Kaaya effectively comes in as a Hurney draft pick for this season. Perhaps it will work out, perhaps it won’t, but having Kaaya around to learn from Cam for a season isn’t a bad thing. Important to remember that Derek Anderson is a free agent at the end of the season.

The other selection was Demetrius Cox from Cincinnati. Cox was a UDFA this year out of Michigan State and can play both safety spots. He comes to Charlotte as just the fourth safety on the roster and will be looked at to play right away. I don’t know much about Cox’s game or skill set, but he had a nice game against Tampa during week one of the preseason.

Practice Squad Notes:  The ten players (eleven this year for Carolina) that usually fill out the practice squad are always a big talking point at the time they’re established, but rarely do these guys come up and play.

Fan favorite Alex Armah is the headliner of the class. He’s a young fullback that has shown some skills, but he is still raw so having a year on the practice squad will benefit him going forward. The Panthers were also able to stash a couple of safeties that I thought had decent showings this summer, but the fact that they were stashed prior to us picking up Cox off waivers was interesting.

Eric Crume is the most likely player to get called up in case of injury with Love and Butler both banged up.

 

Everything is in full go and it’s time for the big boys to separate themselves. I like what the Panthers have done so far and I think they have a squad that can compete for a playoff spot. We should see some more roster moves over the next couple of weeks, but for now, it’s time to focus on beating the 49ers on Sunday.

Recap of the Final Roster & Subsequent Transactions Part 1

At long last, it’s finally game week! No more empty weekends without Carolina Panther football for the foreseeable future. If you’re an avid investor in the stock market, I’d suggest looking into local businesses like Bojangles to invest in as their business should begin to spike as tailgate season officially kicks off alongside the actual NFL season.

Of course, in order to get there every team must go through camp and, more importantly, roster cuts. Like it does every year, the Panthers had some guys get released that we weren’t expecting and some guys make the team that we weren’t expecting. New/Old GM Marty Hurney also go involved in some waiver claim action and joined in on the trade train that every team in the league seemed to jump on.

There was a lot to process and reflect on. Here are the highlights:

Biggest Surprise Cut: Joe Webb. Pretty clear answer here. A week ago, my buddy and I were discussing with each other who we felt like the biggest surprise cut would be and neither of us had Webb on our radar. If you had told me beforehand that a QB was going to get cut, I would have confidently believed that Derek Anderson was the one you’d be referring to. Given Joe Webb’s position flexibility as a wide receiver and his production on special teams, his value felt obvious. Webb’s release was reportedly not a popular one among the locker room which makes sense. The reason they let him go also makes sense which I’ll get into during part two of this post.

Biggest Surprise Inclusion: If we were just listing an individual, I’d go with lineman Greg Van Roten who was a late addition to the training camp roster. That’s a feel good story, but the biggest surprise from the initial final 53 was definitely the inclusion of two kickers. The battle between Graham Gano and Harrison Butker has been widely publicized throughout the summer. Going into the Pittsburgh game, the feeling I got from the media was that Gano had been the better kicker in practice and the job was really his to lose. Similar reports had come out that Hurney was shopping Butker across the league looking for a potential trade.

The turning point in the competition was during the aforementioned game when Gano clanked a 51 yard attempt off the left upright which was his second such miss of the preseason. After the game, the reports shifted that the competition was even. Gano’s struggles last season are well known and it’s pretty obvious that the leash is short. I was surprised that given the depth issues at some positions, the staff opted to roll with two kickers. I’m sure Hurney is still trying to field potential trade offers for one of the two, but I can’t imagine they can afford both guys on the roster past Week 1. Gano has been tabbed to start, but if he misses any of his chances, he could find himself on the bottom.

Stay tuned tomorrow for part two of the final roster breakdown where I dive into the trade and waiver claims!

Introduction

Welcome to Charlotte Sports Blog! The blog that is 100% dedicated to professional sports in the Charlotte, NC market.

This blog has been something I have wanted to do for a while, but admittedly, it’s taken some time to get it going. I started writing a couple of posts around the 2017 NBA all star break when I got the blog and domain set up, but the timing felt off so I scrapped it. When contemplating how and when to really launch the blog, it was pretty clear that the correct timing was going to be important when it came to building momentum.

At the core of it, the blog will be dedicated to professional sports in Charlotte, NC namely the Panthers and the Hornets. As a small market in the sports landscape, the Panthers and the Hornets rarely get coverage from the national outlets and there isn’t enough local coverage around that typically quenches the thirst of the reader for content. Now I’m not a journalist and I don’t claim to have any legitimate sources, but breaking news or providing reported speculation of team news is not the goal of this blog.

My idea of this blog is to give fans of both the Panthers and the Hornets a place to read about both teams from the view of the common fan. Whether it’s a game recap, statistical analysis, media hot takes, free agency & draft news or just anything team related, I will strive to have that content here and available to you.

I’ve been chomping at the bit for months to put this blog in motion. I sat through both league drafts and free agency periods as I waited for the right time to provide content. Ultimately, I felt that the best time to begin a blog would be at the beginning of a season. With training camp set to kick off the new NFL season this week, now is as good a time as any to get going.

I’m looking forward to following along the story lines with all of you and am excited to share my takes here.

Check back for more in the coming days!