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Panthers to pick up Kelvin Benjamin's fifth-year option

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The Carolina Panthers will pick up the fifth-year option on wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin, general manager Dave Gettleman told reporters Friday, per Max Henson of the team's official website.

The no-brainer move will cost the Panthers about $8 million in 2018. It's a nice boost in pay for the 26-year-old -- who will make just under $2.5 million this season -- yet well under the going rate for a No. 1 receiver.

After a spectacular rookie campaign in which the 6-foot-5 wideout compiled 1,008 yards on 73 receptions for nine touchdowns, Benjamin missed all of his second season with a torn ACL. He was inconsistent in his return last season, earning 941 yards on 63 catches with seven touchdowns.

"We're really fired up with the way Kelvin finished the year," Gettleman said, per Black and Blue Review. "He started the year strong, had that lull, then finished up -- he was a man. The Tampa game ... Cam throws the ball, and I'm saying to myself, 'Who the hell is he throwing that to?' All of a sudden I see (Benjamin) jump and it's like, 'Holy crap!' Then he almost killed Brent Grimes on the boundary."

The Panthers want Cam Newton to become more of a pocket passer moving forward, and the big-bodied Benjamin can certainly aid in that endeavor. A full offseason without rehab should help Benjamin head into camp in shape and with an improved understanding of the offense.

If KB plays up to his ability next season, that 2018 contract will look like another bargain.

Of course, Benjamin can't make a leap forward in 2017 if Newton isn't healthy. Gettleman reiterated Friday that the team expects the quarterback to be ready for training camp, despite being scheduled for shoulder surgery later this month.

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