Panthers Trade RB Christian McCaffrey to 49ers for Package of Draft Picks

It turns out that days of speculation leading up to the NFL trade deadline weren’t necessary for possibly the biggest prize available on the market. The San Francisco 49ers acquired star running back Christian McCaffrey from the Carolina Panthers Thursday night in exchange for a package of draft picks.

The 49ers sent four picks — second-, third- and fourth-rounders in 2023 and a fifth-rounder in 2024 — for the Panthers’ two-time All-Pro selection.

The trade ends McCaffrey’s six-year tenure with the organization that drafted him. In his time with Carolina, McCaffrey was the NFL’s premier dual-threat back, with a pair of 100-reception seasons and nearly 7,500 all-purpose yards across 64 games. It also returns him to Northern California, where he starred at Stanford.

“It just got to a point where we thought this was what was best for the organization moving forward, that this was the right move. It’s a tough move, because when you have someone of Christian’s stature in the community and the type of player he is, the type of person he is, it’s really tough to move on from him,” said Carolina general manager Scott Fitterer on Friday.

“I think it’s a home run move for the 49ers, basically stealing him not having to give up a first-round draft pick,” said former All-Pro Samari Rolle. “Christian McCaffrey healthy is easily one of the top five all-purpose backs in the NFL.”

McCaffrey will join and immediately take over a stable of backs in San Francisco, which lost starter Elijah Mitchell early this season. In his absence, Jeff Wilson has filled in as the starter, and the team also drafted Ty Davis-Price in the third round of this April’s draft, though the rookie has also been out with an injury. Since hiring Kyle Shanahan following the 2016 season, San Francisco has preferred to use multiple backs rather than just one bell cow. The team has not had a 1,000-yard rusher since Frank Gore in 2014.

San Francisco inherits McCaffrey with three years remaining on his contract following this one. He signed a four-year, $64 million extension with the Panthers during the 2020 offseason, and is locked up through 2025.

“When healthy, San Francisco has dynamic playmakers all over its offense in McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel, George Kittle, and Brandon Aiyuk. That will be hard for defenses to defend against,” said former NFL executive Mike Tannenbaum.

Trade rumors surrounding the running back were a recent development ahead of the trade deadline, which arrives on Nov. 1. McCaffrey even addressed the new rumors one day before he was dealt, stating that the discussions were “out of his control,” as different teams such as the Rams and Bills appeared as potential suitors.

The move, which followed trading Robbie Anderson to the Arizona Cardinals, could be an early indication of a total rebuild for the Panthers, who nearly doubled their 2023 draft pick pool after the deal. Carolina entered the day with its own selections in Rounds 1, 2, 4, and 5, and now possesses seven selections all before Round 6.

The deal leaves San Francisco without a pick in either of the first two rounds; its first-rounder belongs to Miami as the final piece of a 2021 deal to move up and select Trey Lance.

McCaffrey’s best season came in 2019, his first team All-Pro year (he was a second-teamer in 2018), when he had 1,387 yards rushing with 15 touchdowns, and caught 116 passes for 1,005 yards and another four touchdowns. He became only the third player in league history to have 1,000 yards rushing and receiving each in a single season, and his 116 receptions are a single-season NFL record for a running back.

With McCaffrey gone, the Panthers will turn to some combination of D’Onta Foreman and Chuba Hubbard at the running back position. Foreman signed with the Panthers as a free agent after rushing for 566 yards as a fill-in for Derrick Henry in Tennessee last season, while Hubbard worked under McCaffrey in Carolina as a rookie last season, starting 10 games and rushing for 612 yards while McCaffrey battled injuries.

WATCH MORE: Fantasy Impact of the McCaffrey Trade

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