Bills receiver Kelvin Benjamin no longer plays for the Carolina Panthers, and after his recent interview with The Athletic's Tim Graham, the bridge between the two sides has probably been forever burned.
After Bills practice on Friday, Benjamin went out of his way to criticize both the Panthers and Panthers quarterback Cam Newton when he was asked to explain how his career has gone since 2015. Benjamin said that he wishes he'd been drafted by another team and played with "any other accurate quarterback ... quarterbacks with knowledge." The likely translation: Newton isn't either of those things.
Here's how that segment of the Q&A went:
Q: The last play of your college career, you caught a touchdown to win the national title for Florida State with 13 seconds left. Then you set rookie receiving records for Carolina. Things turned in 2015. How would you assess your career since your rookie season?
A: I mean, I felt like I would've been even more successful if ... I don't know, man ... If I would've ... Looking back on it, I should've just been drafted by somebody else. I should've never went to Carolina. Truly, I just think Carolina was bad for me. It was a bad fit from the get-go. If you would've put me with any other quarterback, let's be real, you know what I'm saying? Any other accurate quarterback like Rodgers or Eli Manning or Big Ben -- anybody! -- quarterbacks with knowledge, that know how to place a ball and give you a better chance to catch the ball. It just felt like I wasn't in that position.
Newton -- a very, very good (some might say great) NFL quarterback with -- isn't beyond reproach, and if there's a knock against him as a football player, it's that he hasn't been consistent enough. Accuracy factors into that.
Completion percentage isn't always the best way to measure accuracy, but it is worth noting that Newton's career completion percentage sits at just 58.5 percent. Among 58 quarterbacks with at least 16 total starts from 2011-17, Newton ranks 48th in completion percentage around the likes of Blake Bortles, Matt Cassel, EJ Manuel, and Mark Sanchez. Newton's been erratic, but that doesn't make him a bad quarterback. He just happens to be a very good, but flawed player.
Benjamin blaming Newton for his struggles seems misguided considering Newton has long been the best player on the Panthers' offense, at times singlehandedly making it go when it's been stuck in neutral. Again, Newton isn't a perfect player. But he's still a good quarterback. And here's where we'll mention that he won his MVP award in 2015,
Benjamin is also flawed. He struggles to gain separation quickly and catch the ball with consistency. There's a reason the Panthers were fine shipping Benjamin -- a former first-round pick -- to Buffalo in exchange for
Q: You were the 28th overall draft choice in 2014 but were traded for third- and seventh-round draft choices last year. How does that sit with you?
A: I guess they ... I mean, I don't really care, you know what I'm saying? I'm really trying to get past the past. It was so much more that I can tell you that was going on on that team. But I'm happy to be out there. Just know that.
In 2014, he caught 73 passes for 1,008 yards and nine touchdowns. He missed the entire 2015 season with a torn ACL, but rebounded with a 63-catch, 941-yard, and seven-touchdown campaign in 2016. At the midway point of the 2017 season, he went from Carolina to Buffalo. Put together, he caught 48 passes for 692 yards and three touchdowns last year. In other words, he's been declining ever since his rookie season. And his outlook in Buffalo isn't bright.
In making the transition from Carolina to Buffalo, Benjamin is going from Newton to ...
- Josh Allen, a strong-armed rookie quarterback with accuracy issues, and
- AJ McCarron, Andy Dalton's former backup, and
- Nathan Peterman, who threw five interceptions in one half in his NFL debut.
Something tells me Benjamin likely won't find his accurate and knowledgeable quarterback in Buffalo.