When wide receiver Travis Benjamin was acquired during the 2016 free-agency period, Chargers fans everywhere were immediately excited.
Formerly with the Cleveland Browns, Benjamin displayed scorching speed and an ability to take the top off of opposing defenses, despite having a plethora of quarterbacks slinging him the rock.
His addition to the Chargers’ receiving corps was a coup, as the team already featured No. 1 wideout Keenan Allen, veteran Stevie Johnson, an up-and-comer in Tyrell Williams, a serviceable option in Dontrelle Inman and tight ends Antonio Gates and Hunter Henry. The team also had Danny Woodhead coming out of the backfield, along with Melvin Gordon, as well. (Woodhead has since moved on to the Baltimore Ravens while Johnson remains unsigned)
It goes without saying, the team made sure that the weapons surrounding veteran signal-caller Philip Rivers were plentiful, but then, well, you know what happened: the injury bug decided that it would make the Bolts’ last season in San Diego much like the last several, injury-riddled.
Allen went down in the first game of the regular season after making Marcus Peters look like a 38-year-old Booga Peters (I can’t cover the bread with jelly, much less an NFL receiver the caliber of No. 13). This put more pressure on the rest of the pass-catchers, including Benjamin.
The Chargers and general manager Tom Telesco were aggressive in securing the addition of the former Miami Hurricane during the 2016 offseason, signing him to a lucrative four-year, $24 million contract, with a $5 million signing bonus while $13 million was received in guaranteed money.
Well, 47 receptions with 677 receiving yards and four touchdowns later, and, why not, some injury issues, the speedy receiver finished the 2016 campaign with underwhelming numbers.
I have no doubt that Benjamin would agree with me on that.
Moving on to this offseason and preparations for 2017.
With the team’s 2017 first-round selection (former Clemson WR Mike WIlliams) possibly being placed on reserve-injured for the season, and the uncertainty of whether or not KA13 can stay healthy for an entire season, the Chargers’ offense needs Benjamin to be in tip-top shape.
According to his words on the team’s official website, he’s feeling good, and ready to get out there and display his full playmaking ability.
“It feels good to be myself,” Benjamin told Chargers.com. “This whole offseason I was being myself in the weight room. Being myself while rehabbing. Now I’m being myself on the field. I wanted to come back stronger and showcase my talent. Just make sure I’m the best I can be during training camp.”
If Benjamin is in fact healthy and himself, as he mentions above, he adds a dynamic element that the Bolts haven’t had for quite some time.
Do not forget, Benjamin tied for the league-lead in plays over 40 yards… with Tyrell Williams.
He is an electric runner with the ball in his hands, able to outrun most players in the NFL, and his route-running is criminally underrated.
Stat Prediction for Travis Benjamin in 2017:
64 receptions for 981 yards and six touchdowns
Should Benjamin live up to the contract he signed and the expectations of the organization and fans, we could all be witness to some of the most explosive, game-changing plays of the 2017 season.
Needless to say, there are quite a few folks who are hoping for just that; while others, not so much.
Thanks a lot for reading.