Christian McCaffrey Traded to the 49ers

Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey
Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

NFL Week 7 - The Carolina Panthers have reportedly traded running back Christian McCaffrey to the San Francisco 49ers, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. The Panthers will receive a 2023 second-round pick as well as third- and fourth-round picks in 2023 and a fifth-round pick in 2024.  

McCaffrey serves as a versatile dual-threat back who has dealt with injury over the last two seasons. Despite making an appearance in every game his first three seasons, McCaffrey has played in just 10 games over the last two seasons, including 7 games in 2021. Despite the absence, McCaffrey finished 7th in both receiving DYAR and receiving DVOA among running backs that season. 

The San Francisco 49ers have suffered a number of injuries this season, with few positions more impacted than their running back room. Elijah Mitchell was placed on injured reserve in early September with a sprained MCL, while third-round rookie Tyrion Davis-Price recently returned from a high ankle sprain. 

A San Francisco 49ers running back has finished top-ten in receiving DYAR in three of head coach Kyle Shanahan's five years, including an additional 11th-place finish. 

The trade compensation also means San Francisco will seldom appear in the 2023 NFL Draft. San Francisco's first-round pick already belongs to Miami after they traded up to #3 overall in 2020 for Trey Lance. The 49ers are left with two compensatory thirds, a fifth, and two sevenths, according to Pro Sports Transactions.  


36 comments, Last at 23 Oct 2022, 9:56am

#1 by Bryan Knowles // Oct 21, 2022 - 12:51am

He'll do at least as much for San Francisco as Jet McKinnon did!


On a more serious note, I do not get why Lynch and Shanahan continue to overpay for running backs when they do such a good job at finding UDFA contributors.  And this is another one in the long, long, long line of moves the 49ers have made that show they do not care about value one whit -- they'll pay whatever they have to when it's someone they want, hence why they have the most expensive full back and had the most expensive tight end and middle linebacker and whatnot.

All that being said, if you're going to overpay a running back; if you're going to take that as a given?  Much rather be overpaying for CMC than Barkley or Jacobs. The possibilities of what McCaffrey can do lining up all over the place in a Shanahan offense is intriguing, to say the least.  And next year, having McCaffrey, Juszcyzk, Deebo and Lance all in the backfield at the goal line?  Good luck defending that one.

...And hey, that vacation they've already booked for draft day looks better and better!

Points: 0

#3 by Spanosian Magn… // Oct 21, 2022 - 1:27am

Hey, the Rams traded a jillion picks for famous expensive players and they won the Super Bowl. If the Niners also trade a jillion picks for famous expensive players, they'll also win the Super Bowl! That's just analytics, man.

On my own more serious note, I like this recent trend of contenders "loading up" mid-season like they do in other sports, and I hope it continues. I'd argue it actually makes more sense for NFL teams to do it than the others, since contention windows are so short due to injury/attrition and the relatively low cap-per-roster-spot, and since the professional player development apparatus is so thin.

But... that's a lot of picks for a guy who's played 16 total games over the past three seasons. Especially at a non-premium position, as you note. It seems like they're counting on "nonlinear effects" to really amp up the effectiveness of all their offensive pieces, now that defenses have to cover Samuel and McCaffery (and Kittle, and Juszczyk, and Aiyuk, and...) - making McCaffery more "valuable" to them specifically than he is in an abstract sense. You know, when you look at all those names, it seems plausible that it just might work.

I'm guessing this also facilitates an urgent mission to get the ball out of Garoppolo's hands as fast as physically possible (he can have a world-beating checkdown on both sides on every play, theoretically), because they really, really cannot afford to have him get hurt this year, and getting hurt is the thing he does most.

Points: 0

#5 by Aaron Brooks G… // Oct 21, 2022 - 7:58am

It’s in the 49ers wheel house. They love gadget guys,  running backs, and walking infirmaries, and McCaffery checks all three boxes.

But if he’s healthy, he gives them a second Deebo.

Points: 0

#10 by KnotMe // Oct 21, 2022 - 9:55am

Most games he's played in the last 3 years is 7 so...he's basically due at this point. The talent is there and he's not THAT old yet, but....feels like alot to give up for the risk. 

It's weird for them to make a sorta-big mid season trade when their starting QB is out for the season. It's not like they can make a run with the backup....oh wait...


Points: 0

#12 by Aaron Brooks G… // Oct 21, 2022 - 10:11am

Garoppolo jokes aside, since 1999, four teams have won Super Bowls with their backup QB, not including Manning in 2015. (Including three straight from 1999-2001!) A couple more won titles the year after a backup guy took over. There is an argument to buffing your roster if you're close but using a backup/young guy. It's hard to stay close, so you might as well go for it if you are. You only need to win a few one-game series.

Points: 0

#13 by RickD // Oct 21, 2022 - 11:40am

Tom Brady and Kurt Warner are not your typical "backup QBs".

(Trent Dilfer would qualify from a talent level, but he was the actual starter by the end of the season.)

Points: 0

#14 by KnotMe // Oct 21, 2022 - 12:10pm

Dak Prescott would be in there too. Basically, any case where the backup takes over. Admittedly Jimmy G is starter quality(obvious joke is obvious) so it does make sense in this case. Just rare to see. 

Points: 0

#15 by Aaron Brooks G… // Oct 21, 2022 - 12:35pm

Tom Brady and Kurt Warner are not your typical "backup QBs".

No high-level success is typical.

Hell, most 1st rounders bust.

Point is, if their teams thought they were good, they would have been starting.

Points: 0

#30 by Stendhal1 // Oct 21, 2022 - 7:42pm

There also were two pre-1999 Super Bowl winners with definite, no doubt about it, replaced-injured-starters-during-the-season backup QBs: the 1980 Raiders (Jim Plunkett replacing Pastorini) and the 1990 Giants (Jeff Hostetler replacing Simms).  Roger Staubach of the 1971 Cowboys qualifies as a third backup winner:  Morton began the year as the starter, Staubach took over in week 6, the two alternated snaps in game 7, and Staubach took the position for good in week 8 and through the Super Bowl.  In addition, Doug Williams of the 1987 R*****s started the first game of the year because Schroeder was injured and started only 2 other regular season games that year before starting in the playoffs and Super Bowl.  And for the 1972 Dolphins, Earl Morrall became the starting quarterback when Bob Griese was injured, then Griese replaced Morrall during the playoff run when Morrall was injured.  (Kind of like Drew Bledsoe in the AFC championship game replacing the injured Tom Brady.)  Morrall for the 1968 Colts (replacing Unitas) would have qualified had the team not blown the Super Bowl to the Jets (the earliest NFL game I remember watching).

Points: 0

#35 by ImNewAroundThe… // Oct 22, 2022 - 11:06pm

Deal with it.

Points: 0

#33 by Bryan Knowles // Oct 22, 2022 - 2:46pm

"Overpaid", maybe.  But in terms of just getting money, Juszczyk is at $5.4 million a year, and Watt is at $3.25 million.

Points: 0

#2 by Romodini // Oct 21, 2022 - 1:05am

Lynch and Shanahan saw the perfect opportunity to add a frequently injured player to a frequently injured roster. By having so many players questionable for each game, the 49ers will confuse their opponents because they'll never know who to game plan for. Will it be Jacked-up Jimmy or Lame Lance under center? Damaged Deebo or Maimed McCaffrey in the backfield? 

Shanahan is taking this misdirection thing to a whole new level.

Points: 0

#4 by Tutenkharnage // Oct 21, 2022 - 7:48am

Full disclosure: I’m speaking as a McCaffrey owner* in a keeper league.

* And a Mahomes owner, and a Hill owner, and a Kelce owner …

Points: 0

#24 by rpwong // Oct 21, 2022 - 2:07pm

You appear to have built the exact same team as me.

On one hand, I'm glad to be free of Carolina Panthers. On the other hand, the DJ Moore owner was so disgusted that they dropped him last week. It's tempting to grab him on the "nowhere to go but up" theory...but I don't want another Panther.

Points: 0

#29 by Tutenkharnage // Oct 21, 2022 - 6:03pm

I drafted DJ Moore this year. It was cute for a while—like the slot I was burning on Curtis Samuel—but I eventually got rid of both of them. 

Points: 0

#6 by BJR // Oct 21, 2022 - 8:53am

The 49ers took RB in the 3rd round each of the last 2 drafts (including 2022 where they didn't have a r1 pick). Sunk costs and all that, but all-told that is a plainly ridiculous amount of draft capital to be spending on that position over such a short period, and suggests some level of organizational dysfunction. 

Re. McCaffrey himself, even if his contract were worth this outlay, the injury risk must make this a highly dubious trade. The only justification I can think of is the 49ers have decided internally that they suck at drafting. 

As for the Panthers, a nice kick-start for whatever regime is installed there next. They look like they are going to be drafting very highly anyway, but there's some more ammunition if they need/want to trade up. 


Points: 0

#7 by Aaron Brooks G… // Oct 21, 2022 - 9:00am

In reply to by BJR

The 49ers seem to assess fragility as an asset rather than a liability in their player evaluations.

Points: 0

#16 by Pat // Oct 21, 2022 - 12:50pm

In reply to by BJR

His contract's not expensive. Even if you just look at the next years, none of it's guaranteed and it's just 3 years, 36M. Dividing the money up by exponential growth (at 6%), it's 5% cap space over those 3 years. The injury risk and large draft outlay is what makes me go "wha?" on this.

It's getting extremely silly to just call anyone who carries the ball a bunch a running back, though. The 49ers haven't had a real receiving threat at RB since McKinnon, and obviously McCaffrey's perfectly capable of putting up receiving numbers equal to a receiver making way more than him.

Points: 0

#25 by BJR // Oct 21, 2022 - 2:42pm

Yeah I agree he's not necessarily too expensive for the role/skills he provides, but I mentioned the contract only to emphasize that it's not like he's on his rookie deal any more. You'd be hard-pressed to prove the 49ers are getting a bargain at his current salary. 

And I don't doubt that McCaffrey is a more capable receiver than most running backs, and as capable as many receivers being paid more than him. But the fact he does carry the ball regularly means he has a lot of wear and tear already, and continues to assume a RB's injury risk going forward. Which is high.

Points: 0

#26 by Pat // Oct 21, 2022 - 3:00pm

Actually, I would - there's nothing guaranteed after this year, so you can easily shuffle money well forward. I mean, you could restructure his contract over the next two years to end up with a cap spread of, say, 8M over 3. So that's 3.5%, 3.2%, and 2.9% dead in '25. This is just not a serious amount of money. And that's not even considering the fact they get him this year for nothing!

I do think the draft haul's too high considering his injury risk. I'd be thinking more like a 2nd and a 4th round pick.

But the fact he does carry the ball regularly means he has a lot of wear and tear already

I don't buy the whole "carrying the ball is like tread on tires" analogy now that you're down to sub-300 carries for a running back. I think running backs just due to age, not carries.

Points: 0

#34 by BJR // Oct 22, 2022 - 2:56pm

He's missed 24 games over the 2 seasons, having missed none his first 3. And he has certainly had an extreme workload given his receiving work (403 touches in 2019!!!). Perhaps the injuries are just random/bad luck the past two seasons, but it's not the profile of somebody I'd be relying on going forward.

But back to my original post; it's not the trade alone that deeply worries me (we do agree it's an overpay, but can debate by what margin). It's that it comes on the heels of spending 3rd round picks on RBs each of the past 2 drafts. That is an obscene amount of resources to be spending on the position. It is extremely hard to prosper long term frittering away draft picks in such fashion.

Points: 0

#36 by Pat // Oct 23, 2022 - 9:56am

Yes, he's been injured recently, but he's also been *older* recently, too. I just don't feel like number of carries really means anything. You get older, your injury risk goes up.

I do agree I don't like the 49ers recent drafts, I just don't necessarily connect them to here. Just because McCaffrey has the same label doesn't mean he'll be used the same.

Points: 0

#8 by ImNewAroundThe… // Oct 21, 2022 - 9:15am


  • '17: 3.6
  • '18: 5.4
  • '19: 5.9*+
  • '20: 5.5
  • '21: 4.7
  • '22: 5.1

SF now has 6 RBs under contract (1 IR) and 4 next year and 2024. They were watching Eno Benjamin last night and decided they needed their own version. Missing the playoffs would be a disaster though. And even a WC exit might be a bad look. It's like the other Cali teams trade last year for Von Miller. Except twice as many picks. And a less valuable position. And they couldn't get them to eat any additional salary. Congrats on having him at $12m the next couple years too I guess? Lol. Good luck. 

Points: 0

#9 by Chuckc // Oct 21, 2022 - 9:47am

There's almost no chance he finishes that contract with the 49ers. Unless he explodes and has a great year and playoffs, I can't see this being more than a 1 year rental regardless of what the contract is.

Points: 0

#11 by KnotMe // Oct 21, 2022 - 10:07am

Seems like alot for a 1 year rental.  They have him next year also. My guess is they restructure his contract to keep him a few more years. 

Points: 0

#17 by Pat // Oct 21, 2022 - 12:52pm

If they can use him more like a receiver as he's been used in the past, his contract's totally reasonable. Got more yards and receptions than Nelson Agholor, so he's clearly worth at least $11M/yr!

Points: 0

#19 by User3284 // Oct 21, 2022 - 1:25pm

If you consider him a “wide back” like Deebo the contract isn’t bad going forward.  Now Niners will have even more elaborate shifts to use on 4th and 2 from midfield to try to draw the defense offsides with before taking the delay of game and punting.   

Points: 0

#23 by serutan // Oct 21, 2022 - 1:53pm

That's the thing about ol' Kyle that none of the bobbleheads seem to want to talk about - he always plays to not lose (i.e. give the other team the game on a silver platter).

Points: 0

#22 by JS // Oct 21, 2022 - 1:35pm

Double duped

Points: 0

#20 by JS // Oct 21, 2022 - 1:35pm


Points: 0

#21 by JS // Oct 21, 2022 - 1:35pm

He'll be 27 next year, has a lot of wear on the tires, an injury history, and he's listed as being at 205 (so am I, so . . . , but still). They've shown in the past they can do well with any number of RBs, and they are paying 2 QBs and several RBs. They have Deebo and even Aiyuk to run outside plays. They gave up a lot.

Was this a Shanahan-family "look how smart I am by continually doing galaxy-brained things" kind of move?

I don't get it.

Points: 0

#27 by Aaron Brooks G… // Oct 21, 2022 - 4:55pm

has a lot of wear on the tires

He has 200 more career rushes than Lamar Jackson and 400 more than Josh Allen. He has one fewer career rushing attempts than Russell Wilson.

His tires are basically new.

Points: 0

#28 by JS // Oct 21, 2022 - 5:08pm

He's caught a lot of balls, and he's smaller than those guys, and he doesn't get to slide.

Points: 0

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