Should 49ers trade with Panthers for Christian McCaffrey?

Christian McCaffrey #22 of the Carolina Panthers (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Christian McCaffrey #22 of the Carolina Panthers (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /

With the 49ers visiting the Panthers in Week 5, the inevitable chatter about a would-be trade for star running back Christian McCaffrey will pop up.

The San Francisco 49ers are squaring up to take on the 1-3 Carolina Panthers in Week 5, and one of the Panthers players poised to do a good deal of damage to the Niners defense is All-Pro running back Christian McCaffrey.

McCaffrey is again banged up this season, although all signs are pointing towards him being a full-go when kickoff comes around from Bank of America Stadium, and San Francisco’s top-ranked run defense is certainly entertaining the challenge.

However, the larger question that might loom is whether or not the 49ers would entertain a trade with Carolina for one of its star players.

Currently, Panthers head coach Matt Rhule is on the hot seat, and there’s no shortage of speculation he could be the first coach dismissed this year. And while Carolina already committed big bucks to McCaffrey, a four-year extension worth up to $64 million back in 2020, there are other signs of the Panthers willing to hear trade offers for the first-round pick of the 2017 NFL Draft out of Stanford.

Would the Niners be in the running?

Christian McCaffrey could be electrifying in 49ers offense

Head coach Kyle Shanahan has spent premiums on running backs before, which parallels the reputation he has for identifying hidden gems either late in the draft or even those who have gone undrafted before, former San Francisco rushers like Matt Breida and Raheem Mostert being prime examples.

But premium dollar and draft capital has been spent, too, including lucrative free-agent deals for runners like Tevin Coleman in 2019 and Jerick McKinnon the year before. And, in the last two drafts, Shanahan has used third-round picks on Trey Sermon (no longer with the team) and Tyrion Davis-Price in respective years.

None of those names hold a candle to what McCaffrey has been able to accomplish over his six-year career. And while his 2019 All-Pro season stands out the most, through 62 total games, he’s mustered 3,857 rush yards, 376 catches for 3,153 receiving yards and 49 all-purpose touchdowns.

And, speaking of that 2019 campaign, he led the entire NFL with 403 touches, 2,392 total yards and 19 scores.

Shanahan has also preferred tailbacks who catch passes out of the backfield, and there’s little doubt adding a player of McCaffrey’s ilk would both boost the offense’s prowess while allowing to 49ers to take pressure off wide receiver Deebo Samuel in the run game.

However, just because McCaffrey has enjoyed plenty of success doesn’t mean the Niners should jump at the chance to trade for him.

49ers must avoid temptation to trade for Christian McCaffrey

For starters, there’s the contract situation. McCaffrey is due $19.55 million in each of the next two years, according to Over the Cap. And even though San Francisco will be rid of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo‘s contract in full by the end of 2022 and can afford to splurge a bit amid fellow signal-caller Trey Lance‘s rookie deal, spending money just to do so isn’t always a wise ploy.

Especially when it has already burned the 49ers with regards to running backs before.

Read More: 5 most disappointing trades in Niners history

Additionally, McCaffrey has that injury-prone reputation the Niners would be wise to avoid, especially in light of their current tailback room having been beset by injuries in each of the last two years.

In 2020 and 2021 combined, he appeared in a mere 10 games and has already dealt with injuries this season despite playing in all four Panthers games to date.

Above all that, Carolina is ultimately going to have to eat a sizable chunk of McCaffrey’s contract via dead money if he’s traded, including over $18 million in 2023 alone, meaning the Panthers won’t move him unless the compensation is significant.

For a San Francisco squad that still doesn’t have a first-round pick next year, acting on a move for McCaffrey would be a poor use of resources for an oft-injured player who hasn’t been the same since that epic 2019 season.

Next. Ranking 49ers' 10 worst trades in franchise history. dark