Not long after the Carolina Panthers finished up the 2017 draft, they dropped a bomb that has deflated the balloon of enthusiasm among Panthers fans. Once again, Kelvin Benjamin is not in shape for offseason workouts. Again he showed up overweight, but this time without the excuse of an injury to explain it away. Gaining weight is something that Benjamin has struggled with since his days at FSU. This is nothing new, unfortunately.
Many of us can relate to the issue, so I am not going to pile on. Kelvin will either decide to take better care of the vessel for his career as a Carolina Panther, or he won’t. He will either excel in this league, or he won’t. The two are absolutely linked.
The more interesting question is this. Do the Carolina Panthers need Kelvin to succeed? Does the “evolved” offense require Benjamin’s presence on the field? All indications point to no.
In the first two rounds of the draft, the Panthers finally gave us a glimpse of what to expect from them this year. With the picks of Christian McCaffrey and Curtis Samuel, the Panthers got faster on offense. Much, much faster.
The Panthers seem to be leaning towards protecting Cam Newton by not only upgrading the offensive line but also changing the offensive scheme. The days of slow developing routes being run by large receivers may be done. Instead you can expect quicker decisions, quicker receivers, quicker throws, and a healthier Cam Newton. That sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?
This new offense may actually be a throwback to the 2015 Superbowl season. With Kelvin Benjamin on injured reserve, Cam Newton was forced to spread the ball around. The result was a group of no-name receivers who actually produced more than if Benjamin was on the field. Go figure. Could the Carolina Panthers be taking a good long look at that when considering Kelvin’s long term future? You bet.
So what about Kelvin now? Well, the Panthers have said they are picking up his 5th year option, but have yet to do so. They have until Wednesday. Delaying it a bit is a pretty good poke at Benjamin for showing up overweight. I suspect the Panthers will pick up the option, as they could still release him without consequence afterwards.
If the offense shows to be more dynamic and effective without him on the field, as it did in 2015, Benjamin really could be done in Carolina.