While most NFL fans were watching the Arizona Cardinals beat the New Orleans Saints on Thursday night, another NFC West team stole the show by making the first actual blockbuster trade before the November 1 deadline.
The Carolina Panthers gave Christian McCaffrey to the San Francisco 49ers. He is a star running back. Ian Rapoport of NFL Media says that Carolina will get a second-, third-, and fourth-round pick in 2023 and a fifth-round selection in 2024.
McCaffrey has been the most desirable player to trade for a long time, so this trade is a big deal for the NFL. But who really benefits, and who loses from the trade? Of course, only time will tell, but here are our first thoughts.
Loser 1: Steve Wilks
In the long run, what might be suitable for the Panthers might not be ideal for Steve Wilks as interim coach. It is terrible, in fact, at least if Wilks wanted to keep his job after the 2022 season.
Tepper had said that Wilks could get the head coach job permanently, but there was a catch. Tepper told ProFootballTalk’s Michael David Smith, “He’s in a position to be in consideration for that position,”
“I had a talk with Steve, no promises were made, but if he does an incredible job, he has to be in consideration.” Wilks took over a team with only one win, the league’s 32nd-best offense, the 21st-best defense, and a quarterback mess.
On top of that, he just lost his best offensive player. If Wilks can pull off an “incredible” season out of this mess, almost every team with an open head coaching job will want to talk to him.
But it is almost impossible to see that happening, and the McCaffrey trade is a clear sign that his latest job as head coach will not last long.
Loser 2: The Los Angeles Rams
What the San Francisco 49ers get from McCaffrey, the Los Angeles Rams don’t. It was said that L.A. was one of several teams that wanted to sign the former Panthers star.
On Saturday, Jonathan Jones of CBS Sports wrote that the Broncos, 49ers, Rams, and Bills are among the teams that have shown interest in McCaffrey. Rapoport said Thursday that the Rams were one of the two teams “in it at the end.”
It made sense for the Rams to be interested in McCaffrey. Los Angeles has had a hard time moving the ball on the ground, averaging only 3.4 yards per carrying, and it looks like it is about to let go of Cam Akers, who was the team’s starting kicker for a long time.
“Sources say that Akers, who is out today for what was called “personal reasons,” has philosophical and football-related disagreements with head coach Sean McVay,” Rapoport wrote on Sunday
“The coach has opened Akers’ future, and sources say the third-year pro could be on the way out.” This season, McVay and the Rams have also had a hard time finding a second reliable receiver to go with Cooper Kupp.
McCaffrey could have been a big help in both the running and passing games, but he will be playing for the rival 49ers instead. The Rams are off to a slow start with a 3-3 record, and adding McCaffrey will not help them get over their loss in the Super Bowl.
Loser 3: Whoever Is Playing Quarterback in Carolina
On the other hand, McCaffrey’s leaving will hurt Carolina’s quarterback, no matter who it is from week to week.
Before he hurt his ankle in Week 5, Baker Mayfield, who was signed in the offseason, had the job. He did not do as well as he could have.
Mayfield has only completed 54.9 percent of the passes he has tried. He has four touchdowns, four picks, and a 71.9 rating. The Panthers turned to P.J. Walker in Week 6.
In a loss to the Los Angeles Rams, he threw for 60 yards, while Jacob Eason has only tried to pass five times this season.Sam Darnold, who will join the team in 2021, is also on the roster, but he has been out with an ankle injury.
On Wednesday, he went back to practice for the first time in almost eight weeks. Based on how the other quarterbacks have done so far, Darnold may get another chance to start when he is healthy.
But whoever is at quarterback for the Panthers will miss a running back with 393 yards rushing, 277 yards receiving, and three touchdowns for the 32nd-ranked offense in the league.
Even before the game, the quarterback job in Carolina was not a good one. After Thursday’s trade, it is even less of a good idea.
Winner 1: Kyle Shanahan
Because of McCaffrey’s contract, there is at least a chance that he is not more than a short-term rental for San Francisco. However, the trade value does not suggest that the 49ers see this as a short-term play.
McCaffrey has a four-year, $64.1 million contract that lasts until 2025, but his base salary for 2022 is only $1 million.
He is also only owed $1 million in injury guarantees if he is released before next season. This means the 49ers do not have to keep him long-term if they do not want to.
McCaffrey has a contract that says he will get $12 million for each of the next three seasons. It is too soon to say that this is a big win for San Francisco because a lot will depend on how far they can go in the playoffs with McCaffrey on their team.
The 49ers did not give up a pick in the first round, but they also did not give up “peanuts.” But head coach Kyle Shanahan will be thrilled to have McCaffrey on the team.
Shanahan has used multiple running backs and Deebo Samuel, a receiver who can also run, to get the ground game going for a long time.
Players like Samuel, Jeff Wilson Jr., and Elijah Mitchell, who is currently out with a sprained MCL, have been good enough, but McCaffrey is a back who can do everything by himself.
McCaffrey might not be as fast as he used to be before he got hurt in 2020 and 2021, but he has been a reliable two-way threat this year, averaging 4.6 yards per carrying and 8.4 yards per catch.
With McCaffrey in the backfield, Shanahan should have much more freedom to come up with new ideas, and San Francisco’s 12th-ranked rushing attack should get a boost.
Winner 2: Jimmy Garoppolo
Jimmy Garoppolo, the quarterback for the 49ers, is the other big winner in San Francisco. When Trey Lance broke his ankle in Week 2, ending his season, the 49ers turned to the 30-year-old starter for 2021.
Since then, Garoppolo has not been terrible, but he has not been great, either. Jimmy G has a 94.8 passer rating and has completed 63.5 percent of the passes he has made. He has thrown seven touchdowns and three interceptions..
Garoppolo, however, lost to the Denver Broncos and the Atlanta Falcons because he turned the ball over twice in each of those games. Garoppolo can play football well and occasionally make a big play, but he is at his best when he is running a high-end game.
With McCaffrey on the team, that is what he should be asked to do more often. San Francisco’s quarterback should win if they have a more consistent running game and a top receiver in the backfield.
Winner 3: The Carolina Panthers
Unless something unexpected happens at quarterback, the Panthers will be looking for a new one during the 2023 draught. The quarterback class of 2019 should be good, with C.J. Stroud and Bryce Young leading the way.
If team owner David Tepper wants to get one of these top quarterbacks, then trading McCaffrey is a big win. Tanking does not often happen in the NFL, but it does happen.
Without McCaffrey, the Panthers, who only have one win, will not be able to win many games in a row. This should help them get a top pick in the draught.
And if Carolina’s organization-building plan goes wrong, it now has extra picks in the second, third, and fourth rounds of the 2023 draught that it can use to move up. Oh, and the Panthers will save a lot of money on their future salary cap because of the deal.
Spotrac says that Carolina will have to pay $8.2 million in dead-cap charges this season and $18.3 million in 2023.
But the Panthers will not have to pay any salary cap for McCaffrey in 2024 or 2025. If they had kept him, they would have had to pay $19.6 million in 2024 and $15.5 million in 2025. (2025).
This team has already started to fall apart. Carolina fired head coach Matt Rhule and traded wide receiver, Robbie Anderson.
Carolina will have much more money to spend on rebuilding in the coming years.
Winner 4: Christian McCaffrey
Wilks will likely be gone by the end of the season, but McCaffrey has already left Carolina. That is a massive win for a running back which is 26 years old and has only been to the playoffs once, and that was in his first season in 2017.
There is no way to know for sure that the 3-3 49ers will make the playoffs this year. But they did make it to the NFC championship game last year, and they are in a much better position than the Panthers to do it again this year.
McCaffrey will also benefit from having a steady quarterback, a proven head coach, and enough offensive talent around him so that opposing defenses will not just focus on him. This trade will give McCaffrey his best chance to win a championship in his professional career.
Even if things do not go well this season, he can still expect to make a lot of money. In 2023, the 49ers can either keep McCaffrey or let him go back on the open market.
Even though he might not get another four-year, $64.1 million deal, he should still be able to get a good salary and choose where to work next. It is basically a win-win situation for a star player who was on a bad team and not getting anywhere.