ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- When the Buffalo Bills traded cornerback Ronald Darby to the Philadelphia Eagles in August for a 2018 third-round draft selection and wide receiver Jordan Matthews, the team included in its news release a note that Matthews was one of five receivers in NFL history to catch 65 passes and gain at least 800 receiving yards in each of his first three seasons.
In terms of those statistics, Matthews enjoys the company of Randy Moss, A.J. Green, Odell Beckham Jr. and Mike Evans. But after a disappointing fourth NFL season that ended Tuesday when the Bills placed him on injured reserve, any comparisons between Matthews and some of the game's great receivers should be put on hold. Matthews finished 2017 with 25 catches for 282 yards and one touchdown.
Likewise, when general manager Brandon Beane swung a trade deadline-day deal with the Carolina Panthers that sent wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin to the Bills in exchange for third- and seventh-round picks in 2018, he called Benjamin's addition, "a win for the Buffalo Bills."
Benjamin has appeared in two of the five games Buffalo has played since the trade, playing a total of 45 snaps on offense because of a torn meniscus he suffered in his right knee during a Nov. 19 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers. He has four catches for 62 yards and the Bills have yet to win a game in which he has played.
Injuries have marred both trades that the Bills hoped would inject life into a passing offense that lost its top three wide receivers -- Sammy Watkins, Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin -- from last season.
Buffalo ranks 30th in passing yards per game (174.4), 28th in net yards per pass attempt (5.72), 29th in yards per reception (10.16) and is tied for 26th in receiving touchdowns (13). Tight end Charles Clay leads the team with 378 receiving yards, which is 86th in the NFL. Running back LeSean McCoy's 48 catches are the most on the team but are tied for 39th in the league.
The most catches by any Bills player in a game this season is seven, by McCoy in a Week 3 win over Denver. Clay (112 in Week 4 against Atlanta) and wide receiver Deonte Thompson (107 in Week 7 against Tampa Bay) are the only Bills players to top 100 receiving yards in a single game this season.
Matthews suffered a chip fracture in his sternum during his first practice with the Bills in training camp that kept him out until Week 1. He then broke his thumb in Week 4, keeping him out another game. Matthews later missed a game in November with a knee injury; he played the past two games despite the injury but it now will cost him the remainder of this season.
In his second game with the Bills, Benjamin caught a 20-yard pass over the middle before taking a helmet to his right knee. He was assisted off the field and did not return to practice until Wednesday.
Benjamin has a future in Buffalo at least through next season. Barring an extension or surprise move, he will play 2018 under the fifth-year option in his rookie contract. Benjamin will earn $8.5 million next season as he tries to re-establish himself as one of the NFL's best at his position, his production having declined since his 1,008-yard rookie season and a 2015 campaign wiped out by an ACL injury.
Matthews is scheduled for unrestricted free agency in March. With Benjamin and 2017 second-round pick Zay Jones projected as the team's top receivers next season and the draft the likely source for a No. 3 wideout, Matthews might not have a future in Buffalo.
In fact, Matthews' role this season had been shrinking after he started six of his first eight games. Even with Benjamin sidelined in recent weeks, the Bills seemed to settle on Jones and Thompson as their top two wide receivers. Matthews, who does not offer the speed or separation ability of Thompson, had been relegated to mostly slot-receiver duty.