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Panthers Hand Four-Year Extension to Christian McCaffrey

Carolina is signing Christian McCaffrey to a four-year extension worth $16 million per year, which makes him the highest-paid back in the league. We don't have the details yet on guaranteed money, so it will be interesting to see how this deal is structured. McCaffrey is exceedingly talented, especially as a receiver. He had 386 receiving DYAR last year, the third-highest season we've ever recorded for a running back. But as I pointed out a few days ago, that value would be a lot lower if we compared McCaffrey to the baseline for wide receivers instead of the baseline for running backs. The Panthers are trying to buck the trend of teams regretting their big-money extensions for running backs. But seriously, when was the last big-money extension for a running back that the team didn't come to regret within a couple of seasons?

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10 comments, Last at 19 Apr 2020, 9:34pm

1 No guaranteed figures out…

No guaranteed figures out there yet but even if it's a relatively flexible deal for Carolina, the APY is pretty... significant, to put it mildly.

I used to kind of hang on to the value that a RB can provide as a receiver as something that might set a guy like McCaffrey apart, but as Aaron pointed out the other day, the efficiency of RB targets simply doesn't compare well to WR targets. That said, some of the comments on that article start to discuss how some amount of RB targets are basically garbage. For example, plays that are meant to go downfield but no one gets open, or the QB can't make the play, or the QB runs out of time and he just dumps off to the RB to avoid an even worse outcome.

So McCaffrey's receiving DVOA/DYAR might not look very good compared to a WR, but his efficiency and value could be hurt by the fact that his QB forces him to eat more garbage targets than he does any individual receiver. It's much less risky to dump off to a RB when the playcall isn't working than try to force the ball to someone downfield. The charting effort might be impossible and I wouldn't expect any "eureka" moment, but I think it would be interesting to see if it were possible to quantify just how much dumpoffs are hurting the measured efficiency of RBs in the passing game vs. if you could separate out designed screens and intentional downfield targets.

7 If you view a target to…

If you view a target to Christian McCaffrey as stealing a target away from a WR then you compare his DVOA to that of the average WR. However, if you view a target to Chrissy Mac as being the option of last resort, and something that any running back would get, then he's provided pretty much exactly as much value as his RB rec DVOA would show. I think the truth is probably somewhere in the middle. McCaffrey being so good makes the team more likely to feed extra targets to him that would be productive elsewhere, while at the same time he absolutely bails the team out a few times per game making someone miss on a dump off and providing real value.

Do I think that his skillset is worth 16 mil per year? Maybe. I definitely think that if any running back deserves that amount it's either him or Kamara, for their receiving work. 

9 The problem is that 'last…

The problem is that 'last resort dumpoff' isn't really a 'stealing from rb' or 'stealing from wr' thing - it's a scheme thing. In some offenses it's the rb, some a slot receiver, some a TE. Some it's the qB taking off. 


Its a category error - and it's why slot receiver dvoa generally looks bad, rb receiving always looks good, etc. We're comparing the wrong things. 

10 Yeah this is a good point. I…

Yeah this is a good point. I guess the question would be, who would you rather have as that outlet valve, given a pick of everyone else in the league? I think Kamara maybe, Jarvis Landry(?), I'm sure a few others, but it's really hard to come up with guys who are legitimately more dangerous in that role. My rams occasionally use Kupp as a sort of dump off guy, but I would rather have McCaffrey in those exact situations. I guess you could say that there might be a lot of really solid blocking tight ends who can at least make consistent 3 yard catches even if they don't turn into anything, who might therefore be underrated overall. Personally, I think that's fairly unlikely.

The second part though is of course the old "great running back has negative value because he causes team to run way too often" argument, although it's a lot less bad to call too many designed screens to a back like McCaffrey then runs to Ezekiel Elliot. So that's why I think he's about halfway valued for RB DVOA and WR DVOA, which is still really good, if not worth 16 million per.

2 I find it surprising that…

I find it surprising that they are doing this now, and not asking CMC to play through to the team's fifth year option. If it wasn't for his excessive workload last year, I would've said that this was a good strategy to mitigate CMC's potential decline during the second half of his career.

However, given CMC's workload last year, and assuming that the Panther's see themselves in a full rebuild, aiming to draft their QB of the future next year, I would've thought they would be better off trading CMC for a first round pick this year and / or next.

3 If memory serves, since it's…

If memory serves, since it's an extension the cost controlled years are still there and the new salary will kick in after that but the signing bonus may get spread out more thinly since the I think the last two years of the current contract can be used for that purpose.  The extra two years before the extension kicks in makes it even riskier in my opinion.

5 Hard to say he doesn't…

Hard to say he doesn't deserve to get paid very well. Also hard to see this working out that well for the Panthers. I hope CMC lives up to it and both parties end up happy, not least because it will be fun to watch the highlights.