Earlier this offseason, star running back Christian McCaffrey became the league’s highest-paid running back after the Carolina Panthers gave him a record-breaking extension. It locks in McCaffrey for the next several seasons while giving him a justly-earned pay raise after the tremendous production level he has put forth in his three seasons in the league. The Panthers have come out to discuss precisely why they were willing to commit to a historic deal with McCaffrey.
Christian McCaffrey’s record-breaking deal
The talk early in the offseason started to center around Christian McCaffrey’s contract situation.
The 23-year-old was entering the fourth year of his rookie deal that pushed forth questions about his long-term future with the franchise. It didn’t take long for the Panthers to get his new deal sorted out after that initial chatter as agreed to a four-year, $64 million extension that will pay him $16 million annually, which resets the annual salary mark for running backs.
McCaffrey proved it on the field as he finished last season ranked third with 1,387 rushing yards and 15 rushing touchdowns along with being second with 116 receptions for 1,005 receiving yards and four touchdowns. That also saw him break the single-season record for a running back with 116 catches, which shattered the previous mark he set the season before (107).
McCaffrey also became the first running back to post multiple 100-reception seasons, while his 2,392 total scrimmage yards are the most in Panthers history. He put in the work to garner that type of deal that has made him the new bar as far as running back’s contract go.
Why the Panthers committed to Christian McCaffrey’s deal
What was made evident in this process was that the Panthers were more than willing to pay top dollar to keep Christian McCaffrey with the franchise.
These contract situations typically linger on a bit as teams are often reluctant to commit to a massive deal, especially to a running back. General manager Marty Hurney has laid out precisely why Carolina was on board with that financial commitment to the Pro Bowler, according to Joseph Person of The Athletic.
“You hit the word correctly when you said versatility. Christian’s ability and his performance as a receiver is very unique to the running back position, as you can see by the 1,000-1,000 marks that he surpassed last year. He really is a different type of running back at the position than maybe we would’ve thought of three, five, 10 years ago because of his ability to create mismatches as a receiver, his ability to run between the tackles, his ability to make big plays.
“He really is a combination running back/wide receiver. All those things led to us — and as you said, his ability as a leader, the type of commitment that he shows, the type of person that he is, the way he comes every day to get better — all those things went into play.”
McCaffrey is the definition of a dual-threat asset in the backfield as he’s an elite talent as a runner and receiver. He has become a significant part of the Panthers’ offensive game plan and offers much more than running the ball.
If McCaffrey stuck to the mold as many of his past peers being a pure runner, it would have been difficult for the Panthers to commit that kind of contract. He is the epitome of the current breed of running back.
Christian McCaffrey’s contract helps other running backs
Beyond McCaffrey getting a significant payday, it also raises the amount for the next running back eyeing a new deal.
New Orleans Saints’ Alvin Kamara is in the same position that McCaffrey was before his extension. The record-breaking deal lifts the numbers higher for Kamara in getting his next contract done with the Saints. There are others such as Derrick Henry, Saquon Barkley, and Leonard Fournette.
McCaffrey has started a ripple effect that will soon be felt around the league with the next wave of deals for running backs.