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Benjamin to Bills? The sky isn't falling

Posted Oct 31, 2017

Panthers trade their top receiver in terms of yardage, but they didn't ship their hopes for a successful season with him.

CHARLOTTE – Where were you when you heard the news about Kelvin Benjamin?

Where were you when you realized the loss of Benjamin actually wasn't going to be the end of the world?

Haven't gotten to that point yet?

Actually, you've already been there, already done that.

Just before Tuesday's trade deadline, the Panthers traded their physically imposing wide receiver to the Bills for two draft picks. The reaction was immediate and, by and large, filled with anger and confusion.

Understandable. The Panthers are 5-3, Benjamin is their leading receiver in terms of yardage, and the team gets nothing in return to help them this season.

Or do they?

Do you remember how you felt in August of 2015 when Benjamin, coming off a 1,000-yard rookie campaign and having utterly dominated his second training camp, went down to a knee injury?

The reaction was immediate, and it was dire. Most fans assumed, at that moment, the Panthers' season was over before it started. Most fans assumed that, at any minute, the Panthers were going to spring into action to find someone who could come close to filling Benjamin's sizable shoes.

Instead, with Ted Ginn, Jerricho Cotchery, Philly Brown and rookie Devin Funchess, the Panthers stayed the course and found a formula that worked. While Benjamin had no choice but to rehab and wait for next year, that patchwork unit proved a key cog in Carolina piecing together a year to remember.

15-1. NFC Championship. A trip to Super Bowl 50.

Am I here to say that I saw that coming? Of course not. By the same token, who am I to say that voluntarily parting ways with Benjamin is a bad move?

Here's what I do know. The Panthers have played defense over the first half of the season that rises to the level of championship-caliber. The offense has not matched that level, and Panthers fans of course want to see that change.

Some want to see a change at offensive coordinator. A few want to see a change at quarterback. It's not this straightforward of course, but Mike Shula was offensive coordinator and Cam Newton was quarterback in 2015 when the Panthers averaged more than 30 points a game. All without Kelvin Benjamin catching a single pass.

The departure of Benjamin and some others over the years are mourned because fans come to love them as Panthers, as personalities, as people and – of course – as football players. Benjamin was here a little more than three calendar years, but that's plenty long for an emotional attachment to develop.

The people in football operations are people, too, but it's their charge to take emotion out of the equation and make moves they deem best for the fate of the football team. As people, they obviously aren't right all the time, but I've always generally been willing to trust that they know what they're doing more than the average fan does.

Benjamin wasn't a cancer in the locker room. When he and Newton were on the same page, it looked like that was no way anyone could stop Benjamin from coming down with the ball. He could do great things in Buffalo.

On balance, Benjamin was an asset. But on the business side of things in the NFL, assets are exactly what they are in the business world at large – valuable pieces within a portfolio.

The powers that be have reason to believe that Tuesday's decision will make the Panthers' portfolio stronger. A successful second half of the season won't automatically mean they were right, nor would a second-half struggle mean they were dead wrong.

But experience tells me this: The Carolina blue sky is not falling.