Watch out, there is a new leader in the NFL’s bank-roll department. His name is Christian McCaffrey.
The Panthers running back has signed a four-year contract extension that averages $16 million per year, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter. The new deal makes McCaffrey the highest-paid running back in NFL history and surpasses the Cowboys’ Ezekiel Elliott ($15 million per year) for the honor.
The 23-year-old racked up 1,387 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns last season, plus catching 116 balls for 1,005 receiving yards and four scores. The Panthers selected McCaffrey in the first round (eighth overall pick) of the 2017 draft. His 2,392 all-purpose yards were tops in the league in 2019.
“I’m so excited to continue my career in Carolina,” McCaffrey said. “I want to thank Mr. Tepper, Marty Hurney, and Coach Rhule for the opportunity to help lead this great franchise, and to all my teammates for their help along the way. And to Panthers fans, KEEP POUNDING!”
McCaffrey is the son of former NFL wide receiver Ed McCaffrey and attended Stanford University. He is the only player in NFL history with 2,500 rushing yards and 2,500 receiving yards in his first three seasons. A dual-threat out of the backfield, McCaffrey holds the record for most receptions by a running back in a single game (15) and most receptions in a single season (116).
Looking at Highest-Paid RBs in NFL History
Christian McCaffrey’s new contract sets the new benchmark for NFL rushers. The four-year extension, estimated at $16 million per year, keeps him in Carolina through the 2025 season and puts him back on the free-agent market at age 29.
Ezekiel Elliott had previously been the highest-paid running back in football after the Dallas Cowboys inked him to a six-year, $90 million contract in 2019 worth $15 million per year. Le’Veon Bell ($13.1 million), David Johnson ($13 million) and Derrick Henry ($10.2 million) make up the rest of the top-five richest deals at the position.
Former Rams star Todd Gurley had headlined that list after signing a four-year, $60 million for roughly $14.3 million per year in 2018. But a series of nagging knee injuries slowed a once-promising career and Los Angeles released him this past offseason. The Falcons inked Gurley to a one-year contract worth $5.5 million.
Panthers Run Entire Offense Through McCaffrey
Lamar Jackson was named NFL MVP for the 2019 season and became only the second unanimous winner for the coveted award. However, there were cries that Christian McCaffrey should have been in the conversation. While the Panthers star didn’t receive any votes, he was in the mix for NFL Offensive Player of the Year honors. Ultimately that award went to Saints receiver Michael Thomas.
McCaffrey, who turns 24 years old on June 7, enjoyed a record-setting 2019 campaign where he was the focal point of the Panthers’ offense. His 287 rushing attempts and 142 targets through the air ensured there were more plays designed for him in a single season than any other player in franchise history.
In three seasons in Carolina, McCaffrey has accumulated 2,920 rushing yards and 2,523 receiving yards, with 39 combined touchdowns. He finished with 2,121 total yards from scrimmage.
“The league is shifting,” McCaffrey said in an interview with ESPN in 2019. “It’s becoming a smaller league, way more speed-dominant. So you’re seeing more backs like me who can run between the tackles, pass-protect, catch and become matchup nightmares.”