ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — The Buffalo Bills cut Kelvin Benjamin with four weeks left in the season in an indication of how poorly the receiver underperformed during his 13 months with the team.
The move, announced by the Bills on Tuesday, came as a surprise only in its timing for a player who was not expected to be re-signed by the team once his contract expired following this season.
Benjamin had just 23 catches on 62 targets for 354 yards and one touchdown, and was knocked for several drops as well as running poor routes this season.
He has topped 50 yards receiving just once — a five-catch, 71-yard outing in a 37-5 loss at Indianapolis in October — and finished with two or fewer catches nine times in 12 games this season.
That wasn't the type of production the Bills were expecting from the 2014 first-round draft pick they acquired in a trade with Carolina on Oct. 31, 2017.
Rather than re-establish himself as a top threat following three-plus inconsistent seasons in Carolina, Benjamin wound up being surpassed on the Bills depth chart by second-year receiver Zay Jones, rookie Robert Foster and Isaiah McKenzie, who was claimed on waivers last month.
Benjamin had a combined three catches for 52 yards in his past three games.
Buffalo also cut veteran receiver Andre Holmes, who was mostly used on special teams, and placed starting centre Russell Bodine on injured reserve. Bodine broke his leg in a 21-17 loss at Miami on Sunday.
The Bills (4-8), who host the New York Jets (3-9) on Sunday, filled two of the roster spots by promoting defensive end Mike Love and cornerback Denzel Rice from their practice squad.
Benjamin's work ethic was questioned.
Before a 20-13 loss at Houston on Oct. 14, a television reporter tweeted an exchange she said she overheard during pregame warmups. The reporter tweeted Benjamin said no when rookie quarterback Josh Allen asked him if he wanted to work on routes.
Benjamin and the Bills refuted the story.
Four days later, Benjamin was the first receiver off the field following practice while others spent additional time working out with then-backup quarterback Nathan Peterman.
Benjamin's departure comes as the Bills continue grooming Allen, who will make his third start after missing four games with a sprained right throwing elbow. Allen has a 3-4 record and showed significant signs of improvement by going a combined 26 of 52 for 391 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions in his past two games.
At 6-foot-5 and 245 pounds, Benjamin was selected with the 28th pick by Carolina and immediately showed signs of promise by finishing his rookie season with 73 catches for 1,008 yards and nine touchdowns — all career bests. He missed all of the 2015 season with a knee injury and then began having difficulty re-establishing himself as the Panthers' top receiving threat.
Benjamin eventually grew frustrated with his role and demanded out of Carolina, which prompted the Panthers to trade him to Buffalo for third- and seventh-round draft picks.
Overall, he has 207 catches for 2,995 yards and 20 touchdowns in 58 games.
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