Christian McCaffrey is having a great season for the Carolina Panthers. He’s been their most valuable player on offense, tearing through opposing defenses. There’s one thing stopping McCaffrey from being considered on equal footing with the great players in this league: his salary. McCaffrey is still on his rookie contract, and a lot of players make more than he does despite not being quite as good.
Here are four surprising running backs making more money this season than Christian McCaffrey.
Christian McCaffrey’s 2019 season so far
- 618 rushing yards on 127 carries
- Seven rushing touchdowns
- 103 rushing yards per game
- 4.9 yards per rushing attempt
- 35 receptions on 44 targets
- 305 receiving yards
- Two receiving touchdowns
- Zero fumbles
It’s been a tough year for Carolina, as starting quarterback Cam Newton has been injured. But McCaffrey’s been so good he’s keeping the Panthers offense — and overall, their team — alive. He’s been so good, it’s not out of the question to think of him as a bona fide MVP candidate.
But McCaffrey is still on his rookie deal, and there are multiple running backs who make more than he does. Here are a few of them.
Four running backs who make more than Christian McCaffrey
According to Spotrac, Christian McCaffrey will make a little over $2 million this season. Based on these numbers, there are a few running backs in the league currently being paid well over that amount who aren’t even close to as good as McCaffrey.
Playing for the Tennessee Titans, Dion Lewis will make $4 million this season. He has 57 rushing yards on 17 carries. He has yet to receive more than four carries in a game for Tennessee. Lewis has only been targeted 19 times out of the backfield, netting 14 catches for 61 yards.
Lamar Miller is making $5.5 million for the Houston Texans. Unfortunately, he’ll miss the whole 2019 season with an injury. Last year, he rushed for 973 yards — less than McCaffrey’s 1,039 rushing yards in 2018. Miller also caught five touchdowns and 25 receptions.
He has yet to see a snap with the 49ers. This is through no fault of McKinnon’s, of course — injuries are a common occurrence in the NFL — but it’s clear the 49ers aren’t getting much of a return on their investment. McKinnon has shown flashes of talent in Minnesota, but only time will tell when he’ll get the opportunity to play in San Francisco.
The Atlanta Falcons will pay Devonta Freeman $3.75 million in 2019. Through seven games this year, he has only 294 rushing yards with zero touchdowns. Since he put together back to back 1,000-yard seasons in 2015 and 2016, Freeman has steadily declined.
Why it’s surprising these backs make more than Christian McCaffrey
Simply put: Christian McCaffrey is wildly more effective than all the aforementioned running backs. Miller and McKinnon are injured. Lewis and Freeman are relatively healthy but not nearly as productive as McCaffrey.
He’s a versatile back who can beat teams on the ground or through the air, giving the Panthers a dynamic weapon out of the backfield. He’s also criminally underpaid. McCaffrey becomes an unrestricted free agent in 2022 when his rookie deal concludes.
If he keeps up this level of production, expect the Panthers to reward him with a hefty extension before he even hits free agency. Then he’ll likely receive compensation more in line with his contribution to the team.