In Week 6, Christian McCaffrey accounted for 75% of the Carolina Panthers’ offensive yards. His value might be at its highest point in at least two seasons. And with general manager Scott Fifferer reportedly fielding trade calls for his franchise running back, we might wonder which teams are frontrunners for McCaffrey’s services.
Christian McCaffrey Landing Spots
The following is a rundown of teams that (a) need him, (b) can afford him, and (c) might be willing to give up valuable assets — including precious draft picks — for a 26-year-old with a notable injury history.
My colleague Dallas Robinson wrote a piece recently on potential landing spots for various Panthers players, and he concluded the Buffalo Bills were an optimal destination for McCaffrey. Here are three other compelling options.
Philadelphia is built to win the Super Bowl this year. And of course, they’re built to win next year, too. They’re also one of only four franchises with two first-round picks in 2023. The forward-thinking Eagles also have two second-rounders in 2024. In other words, they have the draft capital that a rebuilding team like the Panthers crave.
Additionally, Philly has an impending hole in their backfield. Kenneth Gainwell and Boston Scott have not proven to be above-replacement-level options if Miles Sanders gets hurt. And Sanders will be a free agent after this season.
Locking in a proven bell cow this season would give the Eagles the best one-two punch in the league (yes, arguably better than the combination of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt), and a still-in-his-prime McCaffrey in 2023 as they let Sanders (only one year younger) sign a massive contract elsewhere.
New York Giants
“Why the heck would the Giants trade for Christian McCaffrey?” is something I would have told my wife in the car this summer while she politely nods and changes the subject. And yet, here we are.
The Giants are 5-1 with five NFC East contests remaining. Due to a scheduling anomaly, they’ve played only one true road game (their London matchup, of course, was on neutral turf).
So yeah, they’re flying high, and they need more firepower to be serious contenders. New York is in the bottom three in passing yards and in the bottom half in points scored. Saquon Barkley and a strong defense are largely all that’s stood in the way of an 0-6 record.
Barkley and McCaffrey have followed similar NFL paths. Both were breakout stars early in their careers. Both suffered through injury-plagued 2020 and 2021 campaigns when neither looked ready to reclaim their prior dominance. But this year, they’re both playing at peak levels.
The Giants find themselves (strangely enough) in win-now mode despite the fact that Barkley and Daniel Jones will be free agents in a few months. This team needs to determine if they have a real shot at not only making the postseason this year but also making a run.
A Barkley-McCaffrey tandem would be incredible, and it would set up the Giants with a strong foundation heading into 2023.
This might not seem like an obvious landing spot for McCaffrey. Pittsburgh has the same out-of-the-box draft picks as the Giants: a first-rounder each of the next three years, a second-rounder each of the next three years, etc.
But they also have a versatile 24-year-old RB with more than two years remaining on his rookie contract. While Najee Harris has struggled this season, some of that might be due to the offensive line.
If Carolina can value Harris based on what he did as a rookie — 1,200 rushing yards and 74 receptions — then he could be part of a package that would enable Pittsburgh to keep a little more of the draft capital.
And what would the Steelers get? They’re currently top 10 in available cap space for 2023, so taking on McCaffrey’s salary should be manageable. All of their core offensive playmakers are signed through next season, and all but Chase Claypool (who could be expendable by then) are signed through 2024.
In other words, the Steelers would upgrade dramatically at RB for a little over two years before needing to reassess their offense.
Pittsburgh is 2-4 and only one game out of a surprisingly muted AFC North. They have four more intra-divisional games. For a team that’s fifth-worst in yards per carry, the addition of McCaffrey could elevate them to divisional co-frontrunners alongside Cincinnati and Baltimore.