Former First-Rounder Signs With Giants After 2-Year NFL Hiatus

Giants Sign WR/TE Kelvin Benjamin

Getty Kelvin Benjamin #13 of the Buffalo Bills throws the ball while warming up before a game against the Indianapolis Colts.

The New York Giants have signed former Carolina Panthers first-rounder Kelvin Benjamin. The team announced the deal following the conclusion of rookie minicamp where the one-time 1,000-yard receiver took part in a three-day tryout.

Benjamin, 30, entered the league in 2014 with the Panthers when then-general manager Dave Gettleman — now in his fourth seasons with the Giants — snagged the Florida State product with No. 28 overall selection.

Benjamin hit the ground running with Carolina, posting multiple 940-plus-yard receiving campaigns and a total of 16 touchdowns over his first two healthy pro seasons. His 1,008 yards as a rookie made him — at the time — just the 11th rookie receiver in league history to eclipse the 1,000-yard barrier. Unfortunately, injuries, weight issues and an inept ability to create separation began to derail his once-promising career. Benjamin was dealt to the Buffalo Bills midway through the 2018 season but lasted a total of just 16 games before being released. He was quickly scooped up by the Kansas City Chiefs, but his stint in Missouri was even shorter, fizzling out after just three games.

Benjamin hasn’t appeared in an NFL game since 2018. Now, he’ll look to revitalize his career with a change of scenery, as well as a potential position switch.

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Joe Judge Talks Benjamin’s Potential Switch to Tight End

Benjamin, who the team’s official website listed at 6-foot-5-inches and 245 pounds, took reps at both wide receiver and tight end during his three-day tryout in East Rutherford. While a potential full-time switch to tight end may prove both more tantalizing and promising for Benjamin’s hopes of making the roster, head coach Joe Judge isn’t ready to put a label on the big-bodied pass catcher.

“In terms of Benjamin working different position today, we’re going to work different guys at a variety of things right now,” Judge said. “He’s a big guy. He’s always been a big receiver. He’ll work receiver. He’s working a little bit flex tight end as well. I wouldn’t really pin him down to any one position at this point. We’re going to use the weekend to move him around to different spots and see how it works out.”

Judge Coaching Benjamin Hard

If you kept tabs on information coming out of East Rutherford throughout rookie minicamp, the signing of Benjamin may come as a bit of a surprise. While he looked good physically to the naked eye, Benjamin’s on-field performance led to him being readily reprimanded by coach Judge.

Here’s what NJ Advance Media’s Zack Rosenblatt observed on day two of camp:

– Kelvin Benjamin: Yikes. Feeling Joe Judge’s wrath. The biggest veteran name in camp had the Giants coach in his ear on multiple occasions to rag on him about ball security, the second straight day Judge felt the need to go after him. That doesn’t exactly bode well for a 30-year-old trying to make it back to the NFL at a new position (tight end).

However, as USA Today’s Art Stapleton noted in a series of tweets, the constant jawing may have been part of the plan from the get-go once the team decided to bring Benjamin in for a look.

Benjamin switching positions + hadn’t played in a while. He had to show he was coachable + willing.

After watching Kelvin Benjamin this weekend, my conclusion: Giants saw potential, liked how Benjamin took to coaching (and Judge was working him over pretty good) and figured they wanted to continue to see how he develops. Connecting dots to the 53-man roster is WAY premature.


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