Should the Chargers part ways with WR Travis Benjamin?
By Matt Pagels
What should the Los Angeles Chargers do about Travis Benjamin, a player who’s had his ups and downs since signing a four-year deal in 2016?
When former Browns wide receiver Travis Benjamin agreed to a four-year, $24 million deal ($13 million guaranteed) with the Chargers, many fans viewed it as a successful signing.
General manager Tom Telesco reeled in a young, promising receiver who was coming off a career year in Cleveland in a receiver market, which included Benjamin, Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu, that was mediocre at best. And at the time, the value of the Benjamin’s deal appeared to be very good.
Two years later, we’re contemplating whether or not the 28-year-old Benjman should remain a Charger due to underwhelming performances. The Chargers, however, have an out. If Benjamin is cut post-June 1, it would save Los Angeles $5.75 million in cash (only $1.25 million in dead money), per Spotrac.com.
But is that the route the Chargers are willing to go?
It’s frustrating because Benjamin showcased some real talent, especially this past season. He only finished with 34 receptions for 567 yards and four touchdowns, worse numbers than last year, but he made some explosive plays on both offense and special teams, which was what he was brought in to do. Also, his 62 targets were tied for fourth-most on the team, as Philip Rivers tried to get the ball in Benjamin’s hands a lot.
And you can’t take away the fact that he stretched the field:
These players get used the most as "DEEP BALL" guys, stretching the defense vertically.
Even in offenses which prefer the short pass, having a deep threat is huge.#Bucs #Chargers #Patriots #Lions #Seahawks #49ers #LARams #Bills #Dolphins #InBrotherhood #HereWeGo #FlyEaglesFly pic.twitter.com/R3FwUbHx7H
— NFL Matchup on ESPN (@NFLMatchup) January 2, 2018
But when it came to Benjamin, the good went with the bad. A perfect example is what happened in Weeks 7-8. One week after sealing the game vs. Denver with his 42-yard receiving touchdown, Benjamin cost the Chargers points against the Patriots after running backwards into his own end zone on a punt which resulted in a safety. It was a bold strategy Cotton, but it didn’t pay off for him.
The mental mistakes killed Benjamin. Not going out of bounds to save time, refusing to go upfield to get a first down; it was a regular occurrence. And don’t get me started on the end-arounds, a play that failed more than it worked. Not only that, but he’s been known to shy away from contact. That said, throwing the ball deep to your 5-foot-10, 175-pound wideout who’s double covered is not a recipe for success. That’s why you drafted Mike Williams, right?
Speaking of the 2017 first-round pick, Williams dealt with injuries early on and never really caught up in time to make an impact. Rivers and the Chargers expect a big jump in production for Williams after a full offseason. Tyrell Williams, who was the Chargers’ leading receiver a season ago, regressed a bit but turned it around in the second half of the season. He’s a restricted free agent, and it would be wise–and inexpensive–to give put a second-round tender on the speedy 25-year-old. And then there”s Keenan Allen, the 2017 NFL Comeback Player of the Year.
Why am I telling you this? Well, the Chargers have a young, solid receiving corps and wouldn’t be in a bind if they released Benjamin. If anything, they could look to add one in the later rounds of the 2018 draft. Plus, there’s some potential with Geremy Davis, who spent majority of the season on the team’s practice squad.
VERDICT: If I was Telesco, I’d try to get Benjamin to take a pay cut. Yes, he’s made some boneheaded plays, but he’s still a young speedster who knows the offense. But as the No. 4 wide receiver on this team, Benjamin’s not worth the $6 million per year that he was given.