CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - The Panthers pulled off a stunning trade-deadline move Tuesday, sending No. 1 wideout Kelvin Benjamin to Buffalo in exchange for the Bills' third- and seventh-round picks in 2018, according to a league source.
The trade leaves Panthers quarterback Cam Newton without one of his favorite targets -- and comes two weeks after Benjamin left practice early, saying later he was frustrated about his knee injury.
Benjamin saw his targets drop with the arrival of rookie running back Christian McCaffrey, whose 49 catches are a team high and a single-season record for a Panthers running back.
Benjamin's 32 receptions ranked third behind McCaffrey and Devin Funchess, although his 475 receiving yards were a team high.
After Benjamin caught a 25-yard touchdown pass from Newton in a 17-3 win at Tampa Bay on Sunday, Newton heaped praise on Benjamin, whose mother died during the summer.
"He's a person that's an unbelievable teammate. He comes to work each and every day," Newton said after the game. "He may not be the talkative person all the time, but I guarantee you, when you want people in your foxhole, Kelvin Benjamin is the person that you want.
"You know you can just see it on his face. He's usually a very enthusiastic person come gameday, and man, I could just see it."
This is the second trade Panthers interim general manager Marty Hurney has made with Bills GM Brandon Beane, Hurney's former assistant who joined former Panthers defensive coordinator Sean McDermott in Buffalo before this season.
The Panthers traded wide receiver Kaelin Clay to Buffalo for a late-round draft pick, but have since reacquired Clay when the Bills waived him.
Benjamin was Carolina's first-round pick in 2014, and set receiving records for a Panthers rookie with 73 catches for 1,008 yards and nine touchdowns.