Panthers trade star Christian McCaffrey to 49ers

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The San Francisco 49ers will send 2023 second-, third- and fourth-round picks to the Carolina Panthers, sources told ESPN’s Adam Sheft on Thursday night. rights and a 2024 fifth-round pick in exchange for star running back Christian McCaffrey. .

The trade gives San Francisco the offensive playmaker it needs to compete for the Super Bowl. It also gave McCaffrey the chance to get on a winning team for the first time since his rookie season in 2017, when Carolina returned to the Bay Area with an 11-5 record and a starring role at Stanford.

When healthy, McCaffrey is one of the best dual threats in the NFL. In 2019, he became the third player in NFL history to rush for 1,000 yards and receive for 1,000 yards in the same season. His 670 yards from scrimmage — a team-leading 393 rushing yards and a team-leading 277 yards on 33 receptions — is fourth in the NFL this season.

Injuries have been the biggest problem for the former Stanford star. He missed 23 of 33 games in 2020 and 2021 after going injury-free in the first three NFL seasons. This past offseason, he spent time talking to Hall of Fame running back Marshall Faulk, who has had some of his most productive seasons since the 6th grade, about what exercise and diet habits can help He stayed on the field.

McCaffrey has avoided injury so far, playing on 85 percent of Carolina’s steals.

Speculation that the Panthers (1-5) could move on from 26-year-old McCaffrey began after coach Matt Rhule was fired Monday as the team lost 37-15 to the 49ers, 1- 4 behind. Carolina initially asked for two first-round picks, according to a non-Panthers management source.

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

Financially, the deal makes sense for Carolina. McCaffrey, the eighth overall pick in the 2017 draft, is under contract through 2025, with a base salary of $11 million in 2022 and 2023 and $12 million in 2025. His salary cap is $19,550,750 in 2023 and 2024 and $15,450,750 in 2025.

The trade also makes financial sense for the 49ers this season. McCaffrey will receive a base salary of $1,035,000 in 2022 after restructuring his contract in December 2021. Between the Panthers’ $26,938,000 death penalty on the books in 2022 and his cap hits in 2022 and 2023, Carolina will save a cap of $1,198,500 in 2023.

Sources told ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler that the Panthers also received multiple trade calls from their other top playmaker, wide receiver DJ Moore, but the team sees Moore as the foundation of a long-term roster.

What helped the 49ers broker the trade was their recent offseason losses to Robert Saleh to the New York Jets, Mike McDaniel to the Miami Dolphins and Martin Mayhew to the Washington Commanders , resulting in six additional third-round compensatory picks.

The move finally gave McCaffrey a chance to play for the 49ers and coach Kyle Shanahan, a pairing that nearly happened when McCaffrey entered the 2017 NFL Draft. San Francisco ranks first. The No. 2 pick in that draft, Shanahan has said several times that he strongly considered McCaffrey’s original first-round pick during his tenure, and then selected defensive lineman Solomon Thomas, who was in Teammate at Stanford, after being traded to the No. 1 pick. 3.

What’s more, Shanahan and the McCaffrey family 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 had 104 scrimmage yards and a touchdown in San Francisco’s 37-15 win over the Panthers in October. 9. Before that game, Shanahan said McCaffrey looked like he was back on his feet after years of injury.

“McAffrey is healthy,” Shanahan said. “And he looks the same as before. He’s a problem.”

McCaffrey now joins a talented group of skilled positions that also includes receivers Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk and tight end George Kittle. But the 49ers are hoping McCaffrey can help start an offense that has been disappointing for the first six weeks.

The Niners entered Week 7 against the Kansas City Chiefs with 22nd in offensive scoring (18 per game) and 18th in yards per game (340.2).

As for the 2023 NFL draft, San Francisco has now handled most of the picks. It doesn’t have a first-round selection until 2021 draft quarterback Trey Lance, as it was selected by the Dolphins as the last trade in a trade. The Nine’s earliest selection in that draft was the third round.

The 49ers had three picks in that round because they had a pair of third-round compensatory picks. They no longer have those picks, or any first-, second- or fourth-round picks.

The Panthers, meanwhile, will replace McCaffrey with 2021 draft picks Chuba Hubbard and D’Onta Foreman, who traded with the Tennessee Titans in the offseason. Forman has 12 attempts for 37 yards this season, and Hubbard has 5 attempts for 39 yards.

After a 24-10 loss to the Panthers 1-5 to the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday, a frustrated McCaffrey said: “I just want to win. Now he has a chance already.”

ESPN’s Nick Wagner contributed to this report.

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