Bills WR Kelvin Benjamin believes he's hit 'rock bottom' this season

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Having caught only 20 passes for 302 yards through 10 games, Buffalo Bills wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin believes he has reached "rock bottom" this season as he prepares for unrestricted free agency in March.

"It's just a bad season," Benjamin said Monday as the Bills, with a 3-7 record, returned from their bye week. "It is what it is. Just football, man. You have good seasons, you have bad seasons. I've had successful seasons in this league. I'll have plenty more. For some reason, it's just not the year."

Some fans in Buffalo have criticized Benjamin on social media for his performance this season as well as for a perceived lack of effort that Benjamin has previously disputed. Benjamin said Monday he feels "bombarded" and has avoided social media.

"I can't really get on there and really have fun with it no more because they [have] kind of taken the fun out of that," he said. "Just bombarded by the fans and bombarded by the people. The way of our life, I guess, right now."

Benjamin, a former first-round pick selected No. 28 overall by the Carolina Panthers in 2014, is on pace for a career-low 32 catches for 483 yards this season.

"This is as low as my low [has been]," he said.

Playing a season-low 50 percent of snaps in the Bills' win Nov. 11 over the New York Jets, Benjamin was held without a catch on three targets. One incompletion came on a pass from quarterback Matt Barkley when Benjamin appeared to make a leaping catch in the end zone but could not keep the ball secure before he hit the ground.

"You think about the people [who are] already sending you messages, before you even look at them," Benjamin said of the missed opportunity at a touchdown. "You feel like you let your hometown down. You feel like you're letting your family down because I need those balls.

"Every ball, I pride myself on catching it, bringing it down. Even those balls, I want to come down with it. I'm tougher on myself than anybody. I'm the first guy to criticize myself and the first guy to get on myself about anything. Unfortunately I didn't come down with them, the balls that we needed, the balls that I needed. It's football, and you just got to move on from it."

The Panthers traded Benjamin to the Bills in October 2017 for third- and seventh-round picks in the 2018 draft. The Bills are paying Benjamin a fully guaranteed $8.5 million salary this season as part of the fifth-year option in his rookie contract exercised by Carolina.

Benjamin will become a free agent next offseason after several other receivers in the 2014 draft -- including Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans, Odell Beckham, Brandin Cooks, Davante Adams, Allen Robinson and Jarvis Landry -- have already received long-term deals.

"It's definitely going to be a fresh start," Benjamin said of the upcoming offseason. "Once I find a team, or if I'm still in here in Buffalo, whatever, I'm just going to keep pushing. I learned a lot about myself. Just keep going. That mentality, just keep pushing. Once you hit rock bottom, I guess, it's only up from there, right?"

Benjamin said Monday he dwelled earlier this season on not yet having received a similar contract to his 2014 draft counterparts.

"I think coming into the season, that was hard," he said. "I'm not gonna lie. It was always on my mind. I was trying to block it out and just have fun with the game. But at times, I was dropping balls and I was even more critical of myself. Kind of like that domino effect."

Bills coach Sean McDermott said Monday that rookie first-round quarterback Josh Allen is expected to return Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars after not playing since an Oct. 14 elbow injury. Allen, one of four starting quarterbacks for Buffalo this season, threw Benjamin his only touchdown catch this season during the closing minute of a Week 2 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers.

Benjamin said he wants to "put his body on the line" during the remaining six games of the season.

"Stop trying to worry about stats," he said. "Stop trying to worry about pleasing everybody. Just play for myself. Let the chips fall where they fall."