The 49ers shocked the world late Thursday night when they traded a trade for Panthers All-Pro running back Christian McCaffrey.
In the deal, Carolina got a huge booty. According to NFL Network, San Francisco sent a second-round draft pick, a third-rounder and a fourth-rounder in 2023, as well as a fifth-rounder in 2024.
Which begs the question: Was it worth it for the 49ers to give up so much draft capital for a 26-year-old running back who has played just 16 games since 2019?
San Francisco is already behind the 8 ball in the draft, having traded early rounds in 2021, 2022 and 2023 to move up nine spots in the 2021 NFL Draft to select quarterback Trey Lance. It’s hard to criticize a quarterback’s decision, especially for a team that battled out a Super Bowl but felt the need to move on to Jimmy Garoppolo.
That said, the deal has yet to work out so far. Lance only started two games in his rookie season when Garoppolo was injured, and when he took over as a full-time starter this year he struggled before sustaining a serious injury to his ankle. peg Week 2 that ended his season. San Francisco ultimately had no choice but to return to Garoppolo — a quarterback they say clearly limits the offense — and has no idea if Lance is the QB of the future, while not still having no first-round pick next season.
Now they’ve traded what’s essentially the rest of their draft for McCaffrey. They still have two compensatory third-round picks, but other than that they only have a fifth-rounder and two sevenths.
Salary-wise, none of the money left on McCaffrey’s current deal is guaranteed, and Carolina has already paid her 2022 salary, which means San Francisco is only on the hook for 690,000. $ this year, by Over The Cap. It seems likely that the 49ers will renew his deal in the future; From now on, he will count for $12 million against the cap for the next three seasons if he remains under contract. They obviously want to keep it, and they will either have to bear that cost or inject money into the future.
Who, again, is it worth it? If you take a look at the history of the 49ers under Kyle Shanahan, almost every running back the team invested heavily in ended up not working. The team signed Jerick McKinnon to a four-year, $30 million deal in 2018, but he tore his ACL before the start of the season and missed two entire seasons. In 2019, McKinnon’s injured second season, undrafted free agents Jeff Wilson Jr. (still with the team) and Raheem Mostert were their top rushers, and they went to the Super Bowl.
In 2021, the 49ers traded in the third round to get Oklahoma and Ohio State running back Trey Sermon, sending two fourth-rounders to the Rams. Sermon appeared in nine games and failed to win the job against Elijah Mitchell, whom the team selected over 100 picks later. In 2022, Sermon was released.
Clearly, McCaffrey is a different caliber player than the other two. He’s not “just” a running back; he’s an exceptional pass catcher and a dynamic weapon that Shanahan can move through the lineup and maybe unleash in a way Carolina never has. Still, he plays running back, which is the most injury-prone in the NFL. In 2020 and 2021, McCaffrey has played ten games in total, dealing with various ailments. He’s been healthy all season this year, but he’ll be 27 next season, an age many are starting to decline.
The deal was clearly made with 2022 at least partially in mind, and now the 49ers are adding another explosive weapon to an already great roster. If San Francisco — sitting 3-3 and tied atop a tight NFC West — brings home a Super Bowl title, the deal was clearly worth it, and the NFC is weak this season. The addition of McCaffrey should make them less dependent on Garoppolo, and having him, Deebo Samuel, George Kittle and Brandon Aiyuk is as good on an offensive roster as you can find in the league (the 49ers also have the defense n 3 in DVOA, by Football Outsiders).
Still, it’s a huge risk – and perhaps a gesture of desperation. If the 49ers don’t embark on a deep playoff run, they enter 2023 with as many questions as any NFL team.
New York Post