Christian McCaffrey signals real change of intent for 49ers

Christian McCaffrey, Carolina Panthers(Photo by Mike Comer/Getty Images)
Christian McCaffrey, Carolina Panthers(Photo by Mike Comer/Getty Images) /

The 49ers made a statement by aggressively adding Christian McCaffrey, which could be a paradigm-shift move for the franchise.

We’ve all started to come to terms with the latest blockbuster trade that the San Francisco 49ers have shocked us with, obtaining star running back Christian McCaffrey from the firesale that the Carolina Panthers are holding in exchange for multiple draft picks.

Read More49ers strike big by adding Christian McCaffrey via trade with Panthers

McCaffrey joins tackle Trent Williams as players that general manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan have identified and aggressively brought into the team. If McCaffrey is even half the player Williams has been since coming to the Niners, it will prove yet another shrewd investment.

McCaffrey comes with an element of risk, of course. His injury history simply cannot be ignored, and the 49ers have been accused of sacrificing too much draft capital for what could be a rental.

But the upside is impressive. Financially, the Niners have committed to keeping McCaffrey around for the long haul, and the trade signals that intent.  San Francisco sent second, third, and fourth-round picks this next draft, plus a fifth-rounder in 2024, to land McCaffrey.

You don’t trade that capital for someone you plan to keep for less than a season.

Christian McCaffrey helps redefine 49ers offense

As for McCaffrey’s durability, it’s undeniable that the team has had a slew of injuries especially at running back, but the beauty of right now is the 49ers are getting healthier. Jeff Wilson has been able to shoulder the load while Elijah Mitchell is getting closer to a return. A three-headed monster of McCaffrey, Wilson and Mitchell means none of the three has to get worn down.

McCaffrey also adds an extra dimension to the offense because the 49ers have never had a premier receiving back in the Shanahan era. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is not a deep-threat passer as we all know, but he’s good at getting the ball to people in space and letting them do their thing.

McCaffrey is one more player San Francisco can utilize in this fashion, and now one more player opposing defenses have to worry about.

And that’s really the big point, too. It has been said that a running back isn’t a need for the 49ers, but it’s the offense that needs a spark. The defense has been carrying the team, but the injuries have sapped the effectiveness of the offense. Garoppolo has actually played pretty well for the most part, but it’s hard to get the offense moving with constant drops killing drive and injuries to the offensive line reducing the effectiveness of the blocking.

It is a bit of a cliche to say, but this is a declaration of “all in” by San Francisco. The roster is getting healthier and it’s arguably the best roster the team has had under Shanahan (when healthy). Even positional groups considered to be a big hole in the roster such as safety or the interior offensive line have performed way beyond expectations.

The tools are all there if they stay healthy.

The NFC is not a strong conference. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Green Bay Packers look surprisingly shaky, while the Los Angeles Rams are in a Super Bowl hangover. There are questions on exactly how big a contender the New York Giants and Minnesota Vikings are, and while the Philadelphia Eagles are the best team in the NFC right now, there are still questions on how they might perform on a playoff stage.

The 49ers have identified the moment, identified the player and made a move. Nobody can ever claim that Shanahan and Lynch don’t make the moves if they’re available, and it’s going to be exciting to see where this one takes the team.

Next. 49ers adding Christian McCaffrey is a high-risk, high-reward move. dark