The dismantling of the Panthers began early this morning with the team agreeing to trade running back Christian McCaffrey to the San Francisco 49ers in exchange for a 2nd, 3rd, and 4th round draft pick.
While I am not sure that massive is the word I would use to describe the trade it is certainly a big haul for the Panthers who would likely have cut McCaffrey in the offseason as part of a rebuilding effort.
San Francisco is going to bank on McCaffrey finishing out the year healthy and being a dynamic addition to a somewhat stagnant offense. The addition of CMC gives the 49ers, on paper, three dynamic offensive players considered among the best at their position with receiver Deebo Samuel and tight end George Kittle being the other two players.
The salary cap cost for McCaffrey is cheap since the Panthers already paid almost his entire year’s salary in the offseason. San Francisco is only responsible for $690,000 in salary in 2022. The only remaining guarantee on the contract is a $1 million injury guarantee for 2023 which is basically meaningless since the CBA offers him more injury protection if hurt. His salary next year is $12 million. Given the price they gave up I would expect the team to strongly try to redo that deal and bring that salary down by a few million so they can keep him.
The Panthers will be hit with a huge bill for McCaffrey- $8.09 million in dead money this year and $18.352 million next year- making this another in a long line of bad contracts signed with a running back. The Panthers signed CMC to a four year extension in 2020 worth just over $16 million a season. At the time he had two years remaining on his rookie contract.
The Panthers wound up paying McCaffrey an additional $27.17 million over his rookie contract to buy into 6 games of the 2022 season before trading him. Overall he will cost the Panthers $38.47 million from 2020-2022, playing in a total of 16 games while rushing for 1,060 yards and adding 769 receiving yards to the team in those three years. Had they not extended him in 2020 he would have been a free agent in 2022. This move along with the ill advised extension for Robbie Anderson have left the team with millions of dollars of wasted cap space ($43.48 million in extension money for 6 games apiece) and nothing to show for it.
Carolina currently leads the NFL in dead money for 2023 with $28.5 million already allocated to next season. They have the 4th worst salary cap position in the NFL and we project them to be around $17 million over the estimated cap for next year once the roster is brought to 51 players. It is going to be a big hill to climb for a rebuilding team.