Christian McCaffrey, Panthers agree to record-breaking extension

Christian McCaffrey has agreed to a new four-year deal with the Panthers, as Adam Schefter of tweets. The deal, worth an eye-popping $16M per year, will position CMC as the highest-paid running back in the history of the NFL.

McCaffrey and the Panthers have been discussing an extension for some time, even though the youngster was a long way from free agency. The new deal, worth $64M over the course of four years, will keep McCaffrey in place for many seasons to come.

The Panthers have overhauled their team in recent months, bidding farewell to head coach Ron Rivera, tight end Greg Olsen, MVP quarterback Cam Newton, and other longtime figures. McCaffrey, of course, remained as a building block of the team’s future.

In September, Cowboys star Ezekiel Elliott broke the RB record with his six-year, $90M extension. Now, CMC has beaten that $15M average annual value by a cool $1M. More importantly, he landed his deal on a much shorter term. The Panthers standout will be eligible for free agency while still in his prime, setting him up for even greater riches on his next deal.

Because records are made to be broken – particularly when it comes to NFL contracts – McCaffrey might not hold the mantle for long, either. Saints star Alvin Kamara also has youth and accolades on his side, and his camp will certainly have this deal on the radar when it comes time to talk.

McCaffrey won’t turn 24 until June and he already has a First-Team All-Pro selection on his resume. Even in a down year for Carolina, McCaffrey still managed 1,387 rushing yards off of 287 carries, giving him an average of 4.8 yards per tote. He also caught 116 passes for 1,005 yards through the air. All combined, he notched 19 touchdowns on the year.

As great as McCaffrey is, the Panthers’ offer did not come without some serious deliberation. Past market-setting deals for running backs have yielded some seriously mixed results. Todd Gurley, for example, was unable to stay healthy after inking his four-year, $60M whopper with the Rams. The former Offensive Player of the Year was cut midway through his deal, leading him to a one-year pact with the Falcons earlier this year.

“Obviously, we’ve had internal discussions,” GM Marty Hurney said recently, perhaps understating the status of the talks. “Everybody knows what we think of Christian as a player. Other than that I can’t really say any more.”

Even with one year left of McCaffrey’s contract, plus a fifth-year option for 2021, the Panthers didn’t want to let him get anywhere near the open market. Even after two 1,000-yard campaigns and a total of 2,523 receiving yards over three seasons, the Panthers believe that the best is yet to come.

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