It appears as if Dave Gettleman will be getting a close look at an old friend when the New York Giants gather for their three-day rookie minicamp in East Rutherford this weekend.
According to ESPN’s Jordan Raanan, wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin has received an invite and is expected to be among the team’s (maximum) five tryout players, joining former Ohio quarterback Nathan Rourke.
Benjamin, 30, hasn’t played in the NFL since 2018 where he bounced around stints with both the Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs. A former first-round pick of the Carolina Panthers, Benjamin posted multiple 940-plus yard campaigns over the first two healthy seasons of his playing career, including 1,008 yards as a rookie back in 2014. Unfortunately, injuries and a battle to maintain a proper playing weight quickly derailed his once-promising career.
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Gettleman Once Compared Benjamin to a ‘Young Plaxico Burress’
Prior to calling the shots for Big Blue, Dave Gettleman manned the GM duties in Carolina from 2013-2017. In his second season at the helm, the Panthers lost all four of their leading receivers from the previous season during the offseason. With a major void to fill at the position, Gettleman chose to take a chance on Benjamin with the No. 28th overall selection in the 2014 NFL Draft.
Despite just two years of collegiate production and a limited route tree, Gettleman couldn’t help but be enticed by the traits that the 6-foot-5-inch, 240-pound Benjamin brought to the table.
“When I watched him, I thought I was watching a young Plaxico [Burress],” Gettleman said, via NBC Sports. “He’s a better athlete than people realize, he plays faster than a lot people think and he made some ‘OMG’ catches in the rookie minicamp. He’s talented, he has good focus, he learns well and it’s important to him. It’s really important to him.”
While Benjamin never lived up to the Plaxico talks, he did initially hit the ground running in Carolina, quickly becoming Cam Newton’s top target. Benjamin became — at the time — only the 11th rookie wide receiver in NFL history to record a 1,000-yard season. However, Benjamin would suffer a torn ACL in training camp of the following year, wiping his 2015 slate clean. Without Benjamin at their services, the Panthers set a franchise record with 15 victories on the season and appeared in Super Bowl 50.
He returned to the field in 2016, leading all Panthers pass-catchers in touchdowns (seven) and finished second to Greg Olsen in receptions (63) and yards (941). With that said, his production was sporadic, topping 100 yards just once on the year, while his inability to separate became more glaring coming off injury.
Midway through the 2018 season, the Panthers dealt Benjamin to the Bills in exchange for a third-round pick. He lasted a total of 16 games with Buffalo before being released. The Chiefs took a swing on Benjamin two days after his release, but his stint with K.C. came to an end after just three games.
Could Benjamin Be Headed for a Position Switch?
Making the roster will be an uphill battle for Benjamin no matter what position he lines up at. However, receiver in particular leaves very little room for error. The team added Kenny Golladay, John Ross, and Kadarius Toney this offseason and still have the likes of Sterling Shepard, Darius Slayton and Dante Pettis in the fold.
There were rumblings of Benjamin moving to tight end a few seasons ago. The Giants have that spot fairly locked down as well, adding Kyle Rudolph to accompany Pro Bowler Evan Engram. However, it may be Benjamin’s best bet of extending his stay in East Rutherford.
As noted above, Benjamin struggled with weight during his career, reportedly blowing up to 280-plus pounds at one point. Hopefully, he’s in far better shape this time around. Yet, it’s safe to say he has the stature to hold his own at the position. Plus, if nothing else, he’s always served as a viable red-zone threat, compiling 20 touchdowns on 209 career receptions.