Thoughts on the Christian McCaffrey $64 Million Extension

Pro Football Talk broke down the Christian McCaffrey $64 million extension tonight which gives us a chance to look at the details of the contract and see how is stacks up against some comparable players and for the Panthers in general.

Obviously it’s a pretty strong contract for McCaffrey. Here are the year by year cash flows compared to the other two recent big money running back contracts.

PlayerYear 0Year 1Year 2Year 3Year 4
Christian McCaffrey$19,263,412$27,863,412$39,863,412$51,863,412$64,063,412
Ezekiel Elliott$15,100,000$24,700,000$37,100,000$48,000,000$58,000,000
Todd Gurley$15,000,022$28,050,022$37,050,022$47,050,022$57,500,000

McCaffrey will really jump the field in “Old year” (year 0) payments where he will earn a $19.2 million raise over his existing contract. The other two players earned just $15 million. He will, however, actually trail Gurley in first year new money which looks to be one of two concessions made by his side. He jumps the field with nearly $40 million in new money earned by the second new contract year and got well over $50 million for three years. That number is stunning to me because the natural progression would have been to get to $49 million.

In terms of contract structure I’d consider this also pretty favorable for McCaffrey. Here is the breakdown of the three players based on their effective contract values (this included old and new money) to better put the guarantees into perspective. For Elliot we are only using six years rather than the full eight to make a fair comparison. While the contract years should be a driver of sorts for guarantees in the case of a running back those back end seasons are guaranteed worthless so I think for this it makes sense to use the same timeframe as the other two.

PlayerTotal ValueProrated% ProratedInjury guarantee% Inj GuaranteedFull by next Year% Full by next year
Christian McCaffrey$75,362,500$21,500,00028.5%$39,462,50052.4%$38,462,50051.0%
Ezekiel Elliott$70,952,187$20,500,00028.9%$50,052,13770.5%$37,652,13753.1%
Todd Gurley$69,449,978$21,000,00030.2%$45,000,00064.8%$34,500,00049.7%

The second concession I see here is on the injury guarantee on the contract. Elliot was over $50 million which was over 70% of his four year value while Gurley was at $45 million. McCaffrey is essentially at $40 million. He will get the most quick protection though, with $38.4 million guaranteed within one year of signing. That trails Elliot on a percentage basis but it is the largest of the group and considering the riskiness of the position is a good thing for him. The $21.5 million signing bonus did surprise me a little only because I thought there were better ways they could have structured this but if the goal was to surpass Gurley then he got that done, even if again on a percentage basis he didn’t.

Overall Id say the mission here was to mimic Gurley’s contract adjusted for cap inflation and in that respect it is pretty much mission accomplished with the exception of the injury protection.

As for the cap charges we should be looking at charges of $7.8M, $12.5M, $12.9M, $16.3M, $16.3M, and $12.2M. Those first few years are reasonable which is important especially because there is a good chance that the salary cap in 2021 may be significantly impacted by the Covid-19 crisis. So having a reasonable number in 2021 is something teams should be aware of.

McCaffrey, barring a suspension, will be uncuttable until 2023 at which point the dead money would be $8.6 million. He received the same favorable vesting schedule on his 2022 guarantee that Elliot and Gurley negotiated on their third year guarantee so once that kicks in the dead money will rise to $21 million. A trade that year would cost $12.9 million. None of these scenarios would be ideal for Carolina.

For the Panthers to get any value out of this contract they need McCaffrey to be effective through at least 2023. Anything less than that is really a waste. If we assume that the franchise tag in 2022 will be around $12 million and his 2023 tag would be $14.4 million they could have gone the tag route and paid $26.6 million for those two seasons. On his current contract he will earn $27.86M in additional money by 2022 and $39.87M by 2023.

Basically the Panthers are paying an extra $15 million for the 2022 season and $13.2 million for the rights to both years. The cap number for those years is $12.9M and $16.3M so its not as if there is even a salary cap benefit to not playing on the tag those season. So he has to be on the team in 2023 for this contract to make any sense for the team. As I discussed the other day that would be a long shot but they have to hope he is the one otherwise they will get the same treatment the Rams got a few weeks ago when they cut ties with Gurley.

Questions about this article? Reach Jason Fitzgerald on Twitter at @Jason_OTC