The Carolina Panthers showed faith in a franchise cornerstone Monday by reportedly agreeing to a record-setting contract with running back Christian McCaffrey.
The reported deal — a four-year extension averaging $16 million per season — makes McCaffrey the highest-paid running back in NFL history.
It also throws a wrench into the “All-Trades Mock Draft” published Monday on ESPN.com.
ESPN’s Bill Barnwell puts a unique twist on a common exercise each year by producing a one-round mock draft comprised entirely of trades. The idea, as Barnwell explained Monday, is to conceptualize trades that “could serve as a fair representation of what each side might like to do if a certain opportunity or player was available” when each pick comes up.
There are other ground rules to consider — which are outlined in Barnwell’s intro to the mock draft — but the 2020 edition of his annual piece included a hypothetical trade involving McCaffrey that now seems out of the question in wake of Monday’s news.
Here’s the deal Barnwell floated Monday morning, just hours before ESPN’s Adam Schefter first reported McCaffrey’s massive contract extension, which runs through 2025:
Carolina Panthers receive: first-round pick (second overall)
Washington Redskins receive: first-round pick (seventh overall), fifth-round pick (152nd overall), McCaffrey
Here’s an excerpt from Barnwell’s breakdown:
The Panthers are faced with an impossible bind when it comes to McCaffrey. The star running back was incredible last season and has a strong case as the NFL’s best back, but that guy was Todd Gurley two years ago. You know what has happened since. It would be unfair to use Gurley as the sole data point in analyzing McCaffrey’s future, but the vast majority of big contracts for running backs have turned out to be disasters. Carolina went through two such deals during general manager Marty Hurney’s first run with the team, when both Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams struggled after signing lucrative deals to stay with the team.
… Washington hasn’t been able to solve its running back problem for years, and McCaffrey gives it a player who can both take pressure off Dwayne Haskins and actually get people into what was a half-empty stadium last season. New coach Ron Rivera knows how helpful McCaffrey can be. Washington would miss out on pass-rusher Chase Young, but it would still be in line to draft its left tackle of the future at No. 7 and move on from Trent Williams.
Giving a large contract to a running back — even one as electric as McCaffrey — undoubtedly carries huge risk, hence Barnwell’s hypothetical swap involving the 2019 First-Team All-Pro.
As Barnwell notes, trading up to No. 2 would’ve solved that financial dilemma while allowing the Panthers to draft either a potential franchise pass-rusher (Chase Young) or their quarterback of the future (Tua Tagovailoa or Justin Herbert, assuming Joe Burrow goes No. 1 overall to the Cincinnati Bengals).
Instead, the Panthers decided to roll the dice with McCaffrey, the eighth overall pick in 2017. And really, it’s hard to blame them, seeing as McCaffrey turns just 24 in June and is coming off an amazing 2019 campaign in which he racked up an NFL-best 2,392 scrimmage yards (1,387 rushing yards, 1,005 receiving yards) and 19 total touchdowns (15 rushing, four receiving).