Scott Fowler

Buffalo GM proclaims Bills got a ‘win’ in Benjamin trade

Buffalo Bills general manager Brandon Beane used to work as the assistant GM for the Carolina Panthers. On Tuesday, he made a big deal with his old boss to bring wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin to Buffalo.
Buffalo Bills general manager Brandon Beane used to work as the assistant GM for the Carolina Panthers. On Tuesday, he made a big deal with his old boss to bring wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin to Buffalo. AP

Brandon Beane, who once was Marty Hurney’s assistant general manager at Carolina, is now the GM at Buffalo. And he believes he made a very good deal with his old boss on Tuesday.

Beane held a news conference Tuesday night after making the blockbuster deal that sent Carolina’s No. 1 wide receiver, Kelvin Benjamin, to the Bills in return for third- and seventh-round draft picks going from Buffalo to Carolina in 2018.

I actually liked trading Benjamin away the more I thought about it, but I am certainly in the minority there among Panther Nation. The deal was greeted on social media by a number of Panthers players with both anger and confusion.

In Buffalo, meanwhile, Beane has been selling the Benjamin acquisition hard to a mostly grateful player and fan base.

Among the things Beane said in that news conference about the Benjamin deal, according to a number of stories by reporters who covered it:

▪  “It’s a win for the Buffalo Bills.”

▪  “You’re always looking to make a move to win today and to win tomorrow, and I think this answers both of those.”

▪  “[The trade for Benjamin] probably saves me from getting my tail kicked in, walking in [the locker room]. Those guys are probably getting tired of me moving guys and not bringing anything in.”

Buffalo Bills general manager Brandon Beane shook hands with Panthers quarterback Cam Newton in September. Beane took away one of Newton’s favorite targets and closest friends on the team Tuesday when he acquired Kelvin Benjamin in a trade with Carolina. Jeff Siner

▪  “He’s just a tough kid. ... I was deeply involved in Carolina in the scouting of him and, obviously, a part of the team that drafted him in Carolina, so I know him well. He’ll fit in well with the guys that we have here. Obviously, (former Panthers ) Joe Webb, Mike Tolbert and Leonard Johnson know him personally and then some of the coaches. He’s a blue-collar kid; he’ll fit this town very well.”

▪  “I can’t speak on if he’s been inconsistent or not or what’s going on in Carolina this year. But I know who the person is, and I know the guys in the locker room will like him. He’s tough, he’s big, he’s got great hands. He knows how to run routes. He can block. He’s going to be way bigger than most of the corners he faces, so he’ll help you in the run game there.”

Beane initiated the talks, calling Hurney to inquire about Benjamin in the early afternoon Tuesday. The trade came together only a few minutes before the 4 p.m. deadline Tuesday. It was a Halloween surprise for both teams. Buffalo needed receiving help in the worst way, and the Bills are 5-2 and haven’t made the NFL playoffs since 1999. (Benjamin will wear No. 13 with Buffalo, just as he did with Carolina).

In the meantime, the Panthers were likely not going to pay Benjamin the $8.5 million he was owed in 2018 – former general manager Dave Gettleman had picked up Benjamin’s fifth-year option before he was unceremoniously fired just before training camp.

Hurney believed that Benjamin and Devin Funchess were too similar on the field to effectively start together. Although Hurney wouldn’t answer this question, I believe Hurney would have released Benjamin next February (if Hurney were still around at that point, remember he is still the “interim” GM). Hurney was not hot on paying Benjamin that sort of salary.

In any case, both Beane and Hurney respect each other, still communicate a lot, had already done another deal recently (which has now ended up in Carolina’s favor with both Kevon Seymour and Kaelin Clay in the Panthers locker room). And obviously, both men believe they got a good deal out of this.

Beane is selling his side of things a little harder, though, which is understandable. He has a player right there, one who already has 475 receiving yards this season, to brag about. I don’t think there’s any way Hurney is going to say outright that Tuesday’s deal shipping Benjamin out for draft picks that won’t turn into players for six months is “a win for the Carolina Panthers.”

Again, though, I ultimately think the Panthers doing this right now makes a convoluted kind of sense. But no one really knows – yet.

Scott Fowler: 704-358-5140, @scott_fowler