Updated: Dec 23, 2019
Christian McCaffery has arguably been the most dominant running back in the NFL through the 2019 season, and following his 2020 campaign with the Panthers, his rookie contract will be up.
In this upcoming offseason, contract negotiations will begin, and his value must be reviewed by general manager Marty Hurney and whoever’s hired as the Panthers’ HC in the offseason. There’s no question that the Panthers should sign McCaffery to a long term deal, but will the Panthers’ position values(more importantly, their cap space) allow it?
As the RB market has fluctuated so greatly in the past several seasons with Todd Gurley, Leveon Bell, and others, it’s difficult to ballpark where McCaffery’s cap hit will land around. Considering how high volume his usage is in the Panthers’ offense, it should certainly be a top 5 RB salary(if not #1). With 2 games left to play, McCaffery just passed 2100 total yards in his 3rd season as a pro. Despite the lackluster record of the Panthers quarterbacked for the majority of the season by un-drafted backup Kyle Allen, McCaffery has wasted no time establishing himself as a premier pass-catching RB but also brings an ability to break tackles and shimmy like no other. In a Norv Turner lead Panther offense, he’s the prototype. But after a massive contract extending linebacker, Shaq Thompson hits the salary cap, and negotiations finish with CB1 James Bradbury, the Panthers will be thin financially moving forward. The x-factor of McCaffery’s future deal is how the quarterback position will be handled with the Panthers’ next coach.
Should Cam Newton be retained through beyond 2019, his salary would almost have to be a team-friendly deal to be able to resign his “insurance policy”, CMC. If Cam Newton does fizzle out of the Panthers locker room following the 2019 season, however, Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields could be a great option in the draft for the Panthers. They also could give West Virginia product Will Grier another shot after his game against the Colts this Sunday, but that remains unlikely at this point. In either case, a rookie contract starting quarterback is extremely beneficial to a high star power RB or WR on any team, and to keep McCaffery long term, it may be the necessary.