After being linked together for weeks, the San Francisco 49ers have officially traded for Christian McCaffrey. Initially reported by ESPN insider Adam Schefter on October 20, the deal will send the Stanford standout back to the Bay Area and give Kyle Shanahan the sort of elite offensive weapon perfectly tailored for his run-heavy offensive scheme.
“Stunner: Panthers are trading Pro-Bowl RB Christian McCaffrey to the San Francisco 49ers in exchange for draft picks, sources tell ESPN,” Schefter tweeted. “McCaffrey returns to the Bay Area, where he attended Stanford.”
With their asset pool still not fully recovered from trading for Trey Lance, some questioned if the Niners could afford McCaffrey given the presumed asking price but again, per Schefter, John Lynch was able to navigate the phone lines and make a deal that both parties could live with.
“Trade comp: 49ers are sending the Rams second-, third- and fourth-round picks in 2023 and a fifth-round pick in 2024 in exchange for RB Christian McCaffrey, sources tell ESPN,” Schefter tweeted.
Though the details of this deal will only continue to grow, it’s safe to say the Niners are going all-in on winning now after all.
Christian McCaffrey’s Restructured Contract Facilitated the Deal
With three years and $35.6 million remaining on his contract, how were the 49ers able to afford to bring in McCaffrey in 2022? Fortunately, during the spring, the Panthers restructured their now-former All-Pro rusher’s contract to convert much of his 2022 base salary into a signing bonus, as the fine folks at 49ers WebZone explained below.
Earlier this offseason, McCaffrey agreed to a restructure with the Panthers, converting $7.365 million of his $8.4 million base salary into a signing bonus, creating $5.52 million in cap space for Carolina.
That move lowered the running back’s base salary to a meager $1.035 million for 2022, which would be the cost that an acquiring team would have to pay should they move for McCaffrey, instead of the $8.78 million cap hit that he currently holds for 2022.
Though the Niners will have to get creative financially to keep McCaffrey happy moving forward, as his base salary in 2023 is $11.8 million, according to Over the Cap, both sides could be motivated to return to the bargaining table this summer to work out a new, long-term deal with more guaranteed money moving forward.
Don’t Count Out McCaffrey for Week 7 Just Yet
Theoretically, one would understand if McCaffrey took some time to get his things together, get himself out to San Francisco, and get acclimated to his new offense before taking the field in a Niners uniform, but according to Schefter, that isn’t necessarily the case.
“49ers’ RB Christian McCaffrey is scheduled to fly to San Francisco on Friday, when he will meet his new teammates and begin to learn the new playbook. It will be challenging to have him in uniform Sunday vs. the Chiefs, but McCaffrey did go to Stanford and anything possible,” Schefter tweeted.
Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network was a bit more optimistic about the prospects of McCaffrey playing in Week 7, suggesting that there could be subpackage plays schemed up to get him on the field if need be.
“New 49ers RB Christian McCaffrey, who has already spoken to coach Kyle Shanahan and team brass, travels tomorrow to his new home. If he plays Sunday, which he likely will do, expect a red zone package. Then he’ll ramp up from there,” per Rapoport.
Either way, whether he plays his first game against the Kansas City Cheifs in a rematch of Super Bowl LIV or against the Los Angeles Rams the following week, as Schefter pointed out, things have come full circle for the second-generation pro, as his father Ed played for Mike Shanahan with the 49ers from 1994 and now Christian – who wasn’t even born in 1994 – will play for Kyle Shanahan moving forward.