The San Francisco 49ers traded for Panthers’ star running back, Christian McCaffrey, in exchange for draft picks. This blockbuster move for the Niners makes them arguably the most versatile team offensively in the NFL and potentially moves the needle for their Super Bowl chances.
49ers RB Christian McCaffrey
Ever since entering the league in 2017, Christian McCaffrey has been one of the most versatile offensive weapons in the league. The former Stanford Cardinal is not only one of the best runners out of the backfield but also one of the best route runners and pass catchers. The 49ers simply acquired one of the best football players in the world who for years has carried the Panthers’ offense. Now, McCaffrey just needs to play a part in an offense already stacked with talent.
The 26-year-old so far in his career has totaled 3,980 rushing yards and 32 touchdowns on the ground. To accompany those rushing statistics, he has also totaled 390 catches for 3,292 yards receiving and 18 touchdowns through the air. The best year of McCaffrey’s career thus far came in 2019 when he rushed for 1,387 yards with 15 touchdowns on the ground and totaled 116 catches for 1,005 yards receiving with four touchdowns in the passing game.
McCaffrey is one of only three running backs in NFL history to rush for at least 1,000 yards and have at least 1,000 yards receiving in a season. The other two are Roger Craig and Marshall Faulk.
McCaffrey’s issue has nothing to do with ability. When on the field, he is arguably the best running back in the NFL. However, being on the field has been his issue the last few years as he’s had some bad luck with injuries. Including this season, the star RB has only played in 16 games since the beginning of the 2020 season.
Why Christian McCaffrey To The 49ers Works
Some might be concerned about the draft picks the 49ers had to give up for McCaffrey, but in reality, the 49ers still have a good amount of picks next year and haven’t really had an issue with finding talent in the later rounds. San Francisco traded a second-round pick, third-round pick and fourth-round pick in 2023 along with a fifth-round pick in 2024 to Carolina.
The Niners also had the luxury of having compensatory picks in their back pocket to make this deal happen and not gut them of their draft capital. The 49ers will likely receive more compensatory picks for DeMeco Ryans who is likely to get a head coaching job next off-season and also Jimmy Garoppolo assuming he signs with another team in free agency.
This move feels a bit like something the Rams would make to go all in for a Super Bowl push. In fact, it is the type of move they would make, but the 49ers beat them in this bidding war.
The 49ers not only landed an elite offensive weapon, but they fill a position of dire need. The Niners lost their starting running back, Elijah Mitchell, to an injury in Week One. Ever since it has been Jeff Wilson Jr. carrying to load out of the backfield. San Francisco’s offense has struggled this year and a part of that seems to be they are unable to run the football the way they intend to consistently.
Last week against the Falcons, Jimmy Garoppolo attempted 41 passes and the Niners ran the ball only 16 times. Three of those carries were quarterback sneaks. It was only the seventh time in Garoppolo’s career with the 49ers that he has thrown the ball at least 40 times in a game. The 49ers seemed on the verge of an identity crisis on offense and McCaffrey can bring back that identity along with a lot more punch in their offense.
Imagine the backfield packages Shanahan can dial up with McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel, Elijah Mitchell and Kyle Juszczyk. And of course, McCaffrey fits with Garoppolo because of his pass-catching ability in the backfield. But make no mistake, this move is not just for 2022, this move was to secure their running back for down the road.
Due to the Panthers eating a chunk of McCaffrey’s contract, the 49ers will only be on the hook for $690,000 this year. The Niners will take a cap hit of $12 million in 2023 and 2024. For 2025, the cap hit will be $12.2 million. This is all assuming there are no more restructures in the future. This is great value for the 49ers who have struggled to draft RBs recently aside from Elijah Mitchell.
Now just imagine what the zone read option looks like with Trey Lance in the backfield with CMC and Deebo Samuel next season. The versatility is through the roof at this point.
Who Won This Trade?
Truthfully, both teams won this trade. The Panthers, who also traded wide receiver, Robbie Anderson earlier this week to Arizona, are now loaded with draft picks as they enter a rebuilding stage. The 49ers, who have the top defense in the league when healthy, now finally make their all-in move with this regime’s biggest splash yet to now have arguably the most stacked offense full of playmakers. An offense that consists of Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, George Kittle, Christian McCaffrey and the best tackle in football Trent Williams leading the trenches with Kyle Shanahan calling the plays.
According to Ian Rapoport, Christian McCaffrey has already spoken to Shanahan and the 49ers and he will likely play this Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs.