Panthers Will Regret Making Christian McCaffrey the Highest-Paid Running Back

Following dialogue around star running back Christian McCaffrey‘s contract situation, the Carolina Panthers have wasted little time in getting a new deal in place. The franchise has secured a lucrative long-term extension with McCaffrey to keep him under contract for the next several years. It’s a lofty commitment from the Panthers to give him a deal that now makes him the highest-paid running back in the league ahead of the 2020 season. It could be a deal that they could look back to regret if they don’t handle the situation appropriately.

Christian McCaffrey gets record-breaking deal from Panthers

The chatter around McCaffrey‘s contract standing with the Panthers was becoming more prominent over the last few weeks.

McCaffrey was set to play in the final year of his four-year rookie deal that was gathering more attention. Although the team was expected to pick up the fifth-year option on his contract, the 23-year-old had more than proved his worth through his first three seasons in the league behind record-breaking production.

The All-Pro running back is coming off a career-best campaign that earned him some strong MVP consideration as he finished 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. It didn’t take long for that shift the discussion over to his contract with the team.

The Panthers have quickly moved to get McCaffrey under a new long-term contract after reaching an agreement on a four-year extension that will pay him $16 million annually, which is an NFL-record for a running back. It surpasses the $15 million that Ezekiel Elliott is receiving on six-year, $90 million deal with the Dallas Cowboys.

McCaffrey was undoubtedly worth a lucrative long-term extension, but it could be a deal that could wind up haunting them if they don’t handle the situation right.

Panthers may wear down Christian McCaffrey

The new contract is more than just rewarding McCaffrey with what he has more than earned, but it also speaks volumes to what they envision ahead for him in Carolina.

The record-breaking deal shows that he will continue to play in a significant role in the offensive game plan for the next several seasons ahead. When McCaffrey entered the league, there were questions about whether he can handle a considerable workload, and he has proved that while producing at an elite level.

However, that has also come with an increased workload every week. His unique skill set as a dual-threat option it ramps that up another notch as he’s been the team’s best passing game option in the last two seasons. That saw him lead the league with a career-high 403 touches in the 2019 campaign, which was an increase from 326 the season before.

The number of touches will be vital to see how his health holds up over time as that wears on running backs over time. What places even more scrutiny over that is that he’s involved heavily in the passing game. The Panthers will continue to lean heavily on McCaffrey’s production, but that could quickly become a downward slope.

Panthers must use Todd Gurley as a cautionary tale

The Panthers don’t have to look far to see situations that went south because of a massive workload.

Although Todd Gurley had entered the league with underlying health concerns about his knee, the Los Angeles Rams still rolled forward with a significant workload. That initially saw Gurley find much success in Sean McVay’s offense over the first two years that included winning NFL Offensive Player of the Year.

Los Angeles rewarded him with a then-NFL record four-year deal after the 2017 season. Gurley had steady production to begin the 2018 campaign, but injuries came about over the tail end of the regular season that led to a mysterious knee injury. The Rams were forced to play their cards safe for the 2019 season that led to him to see his production slid below 900 rushing yards and no 100-rushing yard performances.

The Rams may have voiced that their decision wasn’t based on the massive financial commitment to a health-maligned star, but it wound up playing out with them moving on from the situation.

There may be some significant differences from Gurley and McCaffrey, given that the former had suffered a torn ACL in college, it still underlines the importance of wearing down their star talent. If the Panthers want to avoid heading down the route the Rams had to venture with Gurley; it will require a great deal of importance on managing his workload over the next few seasons.