Christian McCaffrey commercial spinoffs: Which Panthers could be next? Is it tanking?
Like many Panthers fans who went to bed before 11 p.m. Thursday, quarterback Sam Darnold woke up Friday to find the team’s best player had been traded.
Despite nearly a week of trade speculation surrounding Christian McCaffrey, Darnold said he was “a little surprised” the Panthers traded their All-Pro back to San Francisco for four draft picks, including second, third and fourth rounds of the 49ers. selections in 2023.
“I woke up, saw the news, had my first thoughts,” Darnold said. “Was quite disappointed.
“I was a little surprised, to be honest. But at the end of the day, our record is what it is, and whatever changes the front office wants to make at this point in the season, they will do it for the best of this team and this organization.
Whether McCaffrey’s transfer ends up being in the Panthers’ best long-term interest depends on general manager Scott Fitterer’s ability to turn those picks into productive players. This will take several years to determine. But dealing with McCaffrey just three days after trading Mercurial receiver Robbie Anderson raises many questions about the Panthers’ near-term plans.
Let’s come to them.
Sam Darnold said he was “pretty disappointed” when he woke up this morning to find Christian McCaffrey had been traded. pic.twitter.com/FfBMbvbnWg
— Joe Person (@josephperson) October 21, 2022
Are the Panthers in sellout mode, and if so, who’s next?
When owner David Tepper fired coach Matt Rhule on Oct. 10, it was the green light for teams to start calling Fitterer and seeing which players were available. Anderson’s toxic attitude made him a no-brainer. The Panthers knew trading McCaffrey would be a tougher sell to fans and in the locker room. But in the end, they maximized the value – it helped that division rival Rams and 49ers were the two finalists – for a player who was talented but missed 23 of 33 games in the 2020 and 21 seasons.
Edge rusher Brian Burns is a rising talent who made his first Pro Bowl last season. But Fitterer said the plan was to retain the team’s young core, which includes Burns, DJ Moore, defensive tackle Derrick Brown and defensive backs Jaycee Horn and Jeremy Chinn.
“There are players on this team that I really don’t want to trade, I know this organization doesn’t want to trade. It would take something astronomical,” Fitterer said. “But I think in the future , we like where we are at. We like our young players.
So who could be processed before the Nov. 1 trade deadline? Maybe an experienced player at one of the deeper positions, like cornerback Donte Jackson or offensive tackle Cam Erving.
Trade Ranking: 49ers land Christian McCaffrey from Panthers for draft
Is it tank season in Charlotte?
Well, no one is going to say it out loud. But the Panthers (1-5) just traded the most dynamic player in the NFL’s 32nd offense and have the league’s worst record heading into Sunday’s game against Tampa Bay. Third-string quarterback PJ Walker is set to start for the second straight week as Darnold and Baker Mayfield continue to recover from ankle sprains.
Steve Wilks: “There’s no such thing as tanking when it comes to me and the guys in this locker room.” pic.twitter.com/YOzNFGRDWn
— Joe Person (@josephperson) October 21, 2022
“I think the first thing you have to understand is that we as professionals take great pride in what we do, coaches and players,” interim coach Steve Wilks said. “And there’s no such thing as tanking when it comes to me (or) the men in this locker room.”
No one doubts Wilks’ desire for victory. But the Panthers looked incompetent on offense, and that was before they traded McCaffrey. And it just so happens to be a great year to end with a top-3 draft pick, given a busy quarterback class led by Kentucky’s Will Levis, Alabama’s Bryce Young and CJ Stroud of Ohio State.
So what does the big quarterback picture look like?
The short answer: See the note above on draft guys.
Fitterer has previously explained that the best path to success is to draft and develop a quarterback. Rhule sought quick fixes at the position via trades or free agency, though the Panthers at least stuck their toe in the QB draft pool by taking Matt Corral in the third round this year.
The Panthers were unable to rate Corral after suffering a season-ending foot injury in the preseason. Both Darnold and Mayfield have expiring contracts. Fitterer looked like a guy determined to sign a quarterback in April, possibly with the No. 1 pick.
“You have to have a quarterback to win in this league. Until we have that position, until it’s defined, we’re still going to search,” he said. “But we like some of the guys we have. We develop them. But it will also be a priority. »
Wait, will Fitterer still be around to make those draft day decisions?
That’s a great question, I’m glad I asked it myself.
Seriously, though, Tepper has done that awkward dance once, where he fired a coach (Ron Rivera) and hired another while retaining the GM (Marty Hurney). Considering how it turned out, you’d think Tepper could hire a new coach and general manager in one fell swoop.
And he could, if the coach he’s targeting wants to bring in a hand-picked general manager. But Fitterer – while deferring to Tepper – said he “absolutely” expected to play a role in selecting Rhule’s successor. This next manager probably won’t have control of the 53-man roster like Rhule did. Tepper said last week he was looking for a “better balance” between coach and general manager in terms of personnel decisions.
Back to the CMC deal: Have the Panthers had enough for a player retired three years from a 1,000-1,000 season?
Fitterer was clear the Panthers wanted a first-round pick for McCaffrey. The problem was that neither the 49ers nor the Rams had one, and the other interested teams — a list that included the Bills and former Panthers assistant GM Brandon Beane — weren’t offering one.
Fitterer therefore continued to work to get the teams to put together a set of picks that would equate to a No. 1 on the trade values chart.
“It came pretty close when you add it up. He didn’t reach 1, but he was very close to it,” he said. “The hard part (was) 1 was the wait. That’s a lot of temporary capital that we have. If we just rolled that 1, you’d have a hit and you’d have to hit that player. This way we can spread it out a bit more.
New team, new number. @CMC_22#FTTB pic.twitter.com/B2gKmh5514
— San Francisco 49ers (@49ers) October 21, 2022
An interesting wrinkle: The 49ers (3-3) started negotiations by mentioning that they’re currently 14th on the waiver wire, where they’d pick if the season ended today. But Fitterer countered by telling general manager John Lynch and other San Francisco decision-makers that the 49ers would likely pick near the bottom of the second round and beyond after adding McCaffrey to an already talented offense. Essentially, Fitterer was saying: Throw in another guitar pick.
What does the McCaffrey trade mean for Wilks’ future?
Tepper said Wilks would have a chance to drop the interim tag if he did an “amazing” job in the final 12 weeks of the season. This work has become exponentially more difficult.
If Wilks somehow keeps this team in contention for the NFC South title, he should get the NFL Coach of the Year votes. But he said that was not his priority.
“I told you from day one, my goal is really to try to win the day,” he said. “And whatever happens at the end, we’ll deal with it when it happens. My goal is to make sure these guys, the men in this dressing room, are prepared and ready to play.
Christian McCaffrey’s Panthers legacy: Dangerous in good health, need more help
This one’s for the fantastic managers: who makes the running backs reps disappear with McCaffrey?
Unfortunately for those living in Neverland, it’s going to be a committee approach, with Wilks saying the coaches might then have a hot hand. That means carries for D’Onta Foreman and Chuba Hubbard, and potentially even a few for Raheem Blackshear, an undrafted Virginia Tech rookie.
Foreman performed well in a similar spot last year as a replacement for an injured Derrick Henry in Tennessee. So if you’re bound and determined to take a Panthers back to your fantasy team, Foreman might be the pick.
“When you’re playing behind guys like Derrick and Christian, those guys will get the majority of the loadout,” Foreman said. “When you have an opportunity like this, you have to make the most of it.”
And finally, what will be McCaffrey’s lasting impact in the Carolinas?
Some fans will latch on to McCaffrey’s struggles to stay healthy after signing the richest ($64 million over four-year) contract for a running back in league history. The irony is that no one has been more rigorous with his off-season training and in-season preparations than McCaffrey, whose injuries resulted from a combination of bad luck, a heavy workload and the wear and tear inherent in his position.
When healthy, McCaffrey was the best dual-threat running back in the NFL, with a skill set like no other player in Panthers history. Plus, Darnold said, he was a hell of a teammate.
“He will miss this city, this team. But his legacy, I think, will live on,” Darnold said. “The way he led and the way he left his mark on the city, I don’t know if words really do him justice.”
(Photo: Grant Halverson/Getty Images)