Wow, Brandon Beane isn't fooling around. Just when we thought the trade deadline would pass quietly Tuesday afternoon, the news broke that the Bills had acquired wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin from the Panthers for a third- and seventh-round draft pick in April.
My next reaction? Why would the Panthers, who are 5-3 and a half-game out of first place in the NFC South, trade Benjamin, who's eighth in the NFC with 475 receiving yards? Just two days earlier, Cam Newton was praising him as a great teammate after hitting Benjamin with a 25-yard touchdown pass in a 17-3 victory at Tampa Bay.
Maybe it's because Benjamin showed up to off-season workouts out of shape, or that he hasn't been the most reliable target since the Panthers took him 28th overall in the 2014 draft, the receiver-rich draft in which the Bills gave two firsts to take Sammy Watkins.
You always have questions when a team gives up on a player, especially a team with a star quarterback who doesn't have the most capable receiving corps. It could be that the Panthers didn't feel Benjamin, who has an $8 million price tag next season, was worth the money, same as the Bills felt about Marcell Dareus.
But it's worth the risk for a Bills team that is making a surprise playoff run despite an extremely limited group of wideouts. A team that was thought to be tanking has a chance on Thursday to reach 6-2 for the first time since 1993. Beane clearly felt he needed to get better. Now.
The question isn't whether Benjamin will be a star, or whether he's worth the $8 million salary he's in line for next season. It's whether he's better than Zay Jones, a second-round pick who has been over his head as a top two wide receiver in his rookie season. Benjamin is 6-5, 245 pounds, the kind of big target who could be a nice target for Tyrod Taylor.
This is why you stockpile picks, so you have the assets to make this kind of move. A third-rounder is a valuable bit of currency, but the Bills had six picks in the first three rounds of the next draft, so they could certainly afford to take a stab as top wideout.
Beane and coach Sean McDermott came from Carolina. Presumably, they know about Benjamin's shortcoming and that he's not a sure thing. But they also recognize, as Newton said, that he's a good teammate. Otherwise, it's hard to imagine them bringing someone into a locker room of hungry, closely knit players.
They can part ways with Benjamin after the season if it doesn't work out. His deal is only guaranteed for injury, so he doesn't have to cost them much. If he plays well and helps the Bills break the 17-year playoff drought, this will go down as a brilliant move. Beane is a competitive guy, and he decided to go for it.
Maybe Beane didn't expect the Bills to be this good, but he said on the day he moved Watkins that you can win now while building for the future. Now has arrived. This remarkable season just got a lot more interesting.