Cody Flavell | April 18th, 2020
The world is a rough place right now, but if you’re Christian McCaffrey, you’ve got plenty to smile about. The 23-year-old running back signed a four-year, $64 million dollar deal this week with just over $30 million dollars guaranteed. Just think a few years ago, running backs weren’t making $10 million dollars a season. Now, with each passing running back contract, the market gets considerably higher. However, McCaffrey’s deal certainly should be the ceiling for a running back.
It’s no secret that running backs are viewed as a dime-a-dozen commodity. Once they accumulate so many miles on their legs, their value and production seemingly begin to diminish. One could argue it’s the most replaceable position in football making it hard to justify paying out big money to them. Just look at Todd Gurley recently being cut by the Los Angeles Rams.
Gurley set the market at the time of his signing with a four year, $60 million dollar contract. However, his $45 million dollars guarantee remains the highest for a running back. Gurley is now an Atlanta Falcon and didn’t see the final few seasons of the deal with the Rams.
Gurley finished second in MVP voting at the time of his deal. McCaffrey didn’t quite finish second but has been one of the most effective non-quarterback players on any roster. In fact, McCaffrey became the third player in NFL history with 1,000 yards rushing and receiving in the same season last year.
A further look into the numbers shows that McCaffrey truly is another breed. He’s played more than 90% of the offensive snaps in the last two seasons while racking up 32 combined touchdowns. So not only is he the best player on the field in just about every game, but he’s durable and doesn’t miss time due to injuries. Not many running backs can say that. So is he worth the money the Panthers gave him?
Certainly, it’s hard for teams not to have doubts about paying running backs large sums of money for a lengthy deal. Running backs such as Gurley, Le’Veon Bell and Devonta Freeman have all been paid handsomely and subsequently dealt with injuries and inconsistent play.
In McCaffrey’s case, he’s been durable enough and extremely productive. The former eighth overall pick in 2017 got paid like a number one running back and a number two wide receiver. He has legitimately been that for the Panthers.
At his age, McCaffrey has a chance to cash in again before he turns 30 assuming his production stays elite. Usually, 30 is about the age where running backs begin to decline. That’s not to say a team desperate for a star running back wouldn’t make a play at the All-Pro. Another positive for the Panthers is that this all came to fruition without any holdouts or standoffs. The negotiations went rather smoothly and came together quickly appeasing both sides.
Having McCaffrey locked up is huge for new starting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater as well. A brutal injury cost Bridgewater his chance in Minnesota. He backed up Drew Brees in New Orleans and went 5-0 last season as a starter while Brees was nursing an injury.
Transitioning from Cam Newton to Bridgewater will be a change for Carolina. Having such a steady offensive machine like McCaffrey to ease that transition is a huge plus for the Panthers organization. With Bridgewater on an immensely affordable contract as far as quarterback standards, Carolina is in a position to make sure they paid their star running back whatever had wanted.
With Alvin Kamara and Dalvin Cook next in line for extensions at the position, they’re certainly licking their chops. Considering they both have been electric, they both will get paid handsomely. However, their durability hasn’t been nearly as good as McCaffrey’s which may see them get a little less in a deal.
The Panthers did a great job here in extending McCaffrey before it even got to an ugly point. Both sides will benefit immensely from the contract assuming he continues to stay healthy.
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