Underperforming Bills' window to trade Kelvin Benjamin is closing

INDIANAPOLIS -- Kelvin Benjamin caught five passes for 71 yards in the Buffalo Bills' 37-5 loss Sunday to the Indianapolis Colts, his most receiving yards in a game since being acquired in a trade last October from the Carolina Panthers.

Benjamin's performance had little bearing on the outcome of a Bills defeat in which Derek Anderson proved as ineffective at quarterback as his predecessors this season, yet Benjamin's afternoon could prove timely if Buffalo decides to trade him.

It is not clear what price the Bills would accept to part ways with their top receiver this season, but ESPN's Dan Graziano reported Sunday that the Dallas Cowboys have been monitoring Benjamin, among other wide receivers who might be on the trade market.

With a little more than a week until the NFL's trade deadline Oct. 30, Benjamin's value in a potential deal might never be higher.

Benjamin on Sunday flashed some athleticism and big-play ability that had been fleeting in his first 12 games with the Bills, over which he averaged only 2.2 catches and 30 yards per game. Perhaps with an assist from Benjamin's previous experience with Anderson as members of the Carolina Panthers, Benjamin caught a season-high 80 percent of his targets, including gains of 32, 17 and 14 yards.

If a deal can be struck, the time would be now. Benjamin, the top target of a receiver group with historically pitiful production, might give the Bills (2-5) a better chance to upset New England Patriots next Monday night, but a Bills victory would do little to change the team's fate this season or Benjamin's prospects of striking a long-term deal to stay in Buffalo.

Benjamin is playing on the final season of his rookie contract and should have his first opportunity in March to explore unrestricted free agency. He'll seek the sort of monster deals his fellow receivers in the 2014 draft class have received. Given his lack of consistent production, it would be an upset if the Bills paid Benjamin such big money or assigned him the franchise tag.

There also have been times this season when Benjamin's effort could fairly be questioned, most recently in running his route on a pick-six by Nathan Peterman last Sunday in a loss to the Houston Texans. Benjamin, who faced criticism before the game for a report that he declined to run routes in pregame warm-ups with rookie quarterback Josh Allen, described the report as misinformation and said he "bust[s] his ass" for the team.

Trading Benjamin, who declined to speak to reporters after Sunday's loss at Indianapolis, would have the benefit to Buffalo of adding a future draft asset. However, it would further deplete an offense that has scored only two touchdowns in its past four games and has only three passing touchdowns this season.

Without Benjamin, the Bills would be left with four receivers on their roster: 2017 second-round pick Zay Jones, eighth-year veteran Andre Holmes and rookies Ray-Ray McCloud and Cam Phillips. Including Benjamin, Buffalo's wide receivers are averaging 82.7 yards per game, the fifth fewest by any team's wide receivers since 2001.