Panthers trading star Christian McCaffrey to 49ers

CHARLOTTE, NC — The San Francisco 49ers are sending second-, third- and fourth-round picks in 2023 and a fifth-round pick in 2024 to the Carolina Panthers for star running back Christian McCaffrey, sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter Thursday night.

The deal gives San Francisco the offensive playmaker it needs to be in contention for a Super Bowl. It also gives McCaffrey a chance to be on a winning team for the first time since his rookie season in 2017 when Carolina won 11-5 and return to the Bay Area, where he starred at college at Stanford.

When he’s healthy, McCaffrey is one of the best double threats in the NFL. In 2019, he became only the third player in NFL history to have 1,000 yards rushing and 1,000 yards receiving in the same season. His 670 yards from scrimmage — a team-leading 393 yards rushing and team-leading 33 catches for 277 yards — ranks fourth in the NFL this season.

Injuries were the biggest concern for the former Stanford star. He missed 23 of 33 games in the 2020 and 2021 seasons after being injury-free in his first three NFL seasons. He spent time this past offseason talking to Hall of Famer running back Marshall Faulk, who has had some of his most prolific seasons beginning in the 6th grade, and what training and nutrition practices could help him stay on the field.

So far, McCaffrey has avoided injury and played 85% of Carolina’s snaps.

Speculation that the Panthers (1-5) could move away from McCaffrey, 26, began after coach Matt Rhule was fired Monday after the team fell to 1-4 in a 37-15 loss to the 49ers. According to a non-Panthers front office source, Carolina initially asked for two first-round draft picks.

The Panthers announced the move Thursday night and thanked McCaffrey in a tweet. Carolina did not disclose compensation from San Francisco.

Financially, the deal makes sense for Carolina. McCaffrey, the eighth pick of the 2017 draft, is under contract through the 2025 season with a base salary of $11 million in 2022 and 2023 and $12 million in 2025.

The swap also makes financial sense for the 49ers this season. McCaffrey has a base salary of $1,035,000 in 2022 after his contract was restructured in December 2021. Between the $26,938,000 in dead money the Panthers have on the books in 2022 and their 2022 and 2023 cap hits, Carolina will have a $1,198,500 cap saving in 2023.

The Panthers have also received several trade calls from their other top playmaker, wide receiver DJ Moore, but the team views Moore as a fundamental element of the roster long-term, sources told ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler.

What helped the 49ers ease the trade was their six extra third-round draft picks, which they gave for losing Robert Saleh to the New York Jets, Mike McDaniel to the Miami Dolphins and Martin Mayhew to the Washington Commanders in granted in recent off-seasons.

The move finally gives McCaffrey a chance to play for the 49ers and coach Kyle Shanahan, a pairing that almost happened when McCaffrey entered the 2017 NFL draft. San Francisco held the No. 2 pick in that draft, and Shanahan has said multiple times that he gave McCaffrey a lot of consideration with that first pick in the first round of his tenure before opting out after a trade-down for Solomon Thomas, McCaffrey’s teammate Stanford, has ruled on #3.

Additionally, the Shanahan and McCaffrey families have long been linked, dating back to the nine seasons that McCaffrey’s father Ed played for Shanahan’s father Mike with the Denver Broncos.

McCaffrey drove 104 scrimmage yards and a touchdown against the Niners in San Francisco’s 37-15 win over the Panthers on October 9. Ahead of that game, Shanahan said McCaffrey looked like he was back at it after his injuries over the past few years.

“McCaffrey is healthy,” Shanahan said. “And he looks the same as he used to. He’s a problem.”

McCaffrey now joins a talented skill position group that also includes receivers Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk, and tight end George Kittle. But the 49ers are hoping McCaffrey can help launch an offense that has disappointed in the first six weeks.

The Niners go into their Game of Week 7 against the Kansas City Chiefs ranked 22nd in offensive points scored (18 per game) and 18th in yards per game (340.2).

As far as the 2023 NFL draft goes, San Francisco has now given up most of its top picks. It has no first-round pick as it goes to the Dolphins in 2021 as the last piece of the trade until draft quarterback Trey Lance. The earliest pick the Niners will have in this draft is the third round.

The 49ers should have three picks this round because they have a pair of third-round compensation picks. You are out of those picks or have any picks in the first, second, or fourth round.

Meanwhile, the Panthers will replace McCaffrey with 2021 draft pick Chuba Hubbard and D’Onta Foreman, who was acquired in a trade with the Tennessee Titans during the offseason. Foreman has 12 carries for 37 yards this season and Hubbard has five for 39 yards.

A dejected McCaffrey said “I just want to win” after Sunday’s 24-10 loss to the Los Angeles Rams that dropped the Panthers to 5-1. Now he has his chance.

ESPN’s Nick Wagoner contributed to this report. Panthers trading star Christian McCaffrey to 49ers

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