Why Did the Panthers Trade Christian McCaffrey? Revisiting Carolina’s Blockbuster Deal With the 49ers

    Looking back on why the Carolina Panthers traded superstar RB Christian McCaffrey and the fallout surrounding the two franchises.

    Christian McCaffrey is one of the most dynamic playmakers in the NFL. The Carolina Panthers knew what they had in McCaffrey when they drafted him with the eighth overall selection in the 2017 NFL Draft.

    Unfortunately, injuries began to catch up with McCaffrey, making him expendable to Carolina. The 49ers, eager to change their fortunes, swooped in and pulled off a trade to alter the course of both franchises.

    Christian McCaffrey Trade Details

    Carolina Panthers receive: 2023 second-round pick, 2023 third-round pick, 2023 fourth-round pick, and 2024 fifth-round pick.

    San Francisco 49ers receive: RB Christian McCaffrey.

    Players Involved in McCaffrey Trade

    The only player involved in the trade for McCaffrey was McCaffrey. The Panthers’ all-around back wanted to play for a winner, the 49ers wanted to add another linchpin to their already dynamic offense. The fit makes sense, but the Panthers were asking for a first-round pick in return.

    The 49ers didn’t match the ask for a first-round pick, but the number of draft picks they sent the Panthers equated to a first-round value, so the teams agreed to the deal.

    Who Won the McCaffrey Trade?

    For Carolina, the goal was to accumulate draft capital, provide franchise flexibility, and get your franchise QB. The Panthers obtained that goal and used some of the picks they accumulated in the McCaffrey trade to move up to the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft to select Bryce Young.

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    If Young becomes the franchise savior, the McCaffrey trade will be successful. If Young falls on his face, the deal will be another regret in a long line of mistakes by a bungling franchise.

    It remains too early to tell who won the McCaffrey trade. McCaffrey has made a substantial difference on the 49ers’ offense. Kyle Shanahan is well-known for making something out of nothing with his exotic running scheme, but acquiring a player like McCaffrey takes the run game to a whole new level.

    McCaffrey isn’t just an RB. Many NFL scouts and analysts believe McCaffrey is the top pass catcher out of the backfield in the league. He impacts the game in many ways, and San Francisco adding him to a room of talented playmakers like Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, and George Kittle is almost unfair.

    For the 49ers to pay off the McCaffrey trade, they must win a Super Bowl. You don’t push all of your chips into the middle of the table for an RB, a position most of the league has devalued, and view anything but a title as a success.

    The 49ers fell short last season when Brock Purdy exited the NFC title game with an injury. If the 49ers can reach the mountaintop and claim a Super Bowl title, they will win the trade. If not, it is a failure by any measure.

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