Sat. Nov 26th, 2022

After weeks of speculation, Christian McCaffrey is finally on the move. The Panthers traded the running back to the 49ers on Thursday .

San Francisco reportedly sent four draft picks back Carolina’s way for the top player available at the 2022 NFL trade deadline.

The writing was on the wall for McCaffrey and Carolina. The team has been weak out of the gate and it fired head coach Matt Rhule after Week 5. Despite McCaffrey being healthy and able to stay on the field this year, it hasn’t been enough for the Panthers to compete.

While some teams are stuck in limbo ahead of the deadline, it’s clear the Panthers were going to be sellers. In fact, this isn’t the only trade the Panthers have made. Wide receiver Robbie Anderson was sent to the Cardinals earlier this week after an altercation on the sideline with receivers coach Joe Dailey during the team’s loss Sunday at the Rams.

Carolina was unable to secure the first-round pick it was looking for; San Francisco had previously traded its 2023 first-rounder to the Dolphins in the deal to get the No. 3 overall pick in 2021, which it used on QB Trey Lance. However, it’s hard to complain about getting four draft picks, including three in the middle rounds of the 2023 draft.

Why did the Panthers trade Christian McCaffrey?

In simple terms, two words can be used to explain why the Panthers traded away such a talented player — draft picks.

The Panthers aren’t winning anytime soon. They’re 1-5 this season, Baker Mayfield does not seem like the answer at QB and a new head coach will need to be hired in the offseason. Carolina is facing a rebuild and needs to acquire as many draft picks as possible while also trying to secure the top pick for the 2023 NFL Draft.

And that’s exactly what it did with this move. While the Panthers were not able to grab a first-rounder from the 49ers, collecting four draft picks over the next two drafts that range from the second round to the fifth is a strong get for a team looking to build through the draft. Carolina now owns two selections in each of the second, third and fourth rounds in 2023.

Rumors of a McCaffrey trade had been swirling for some time. With the Nov. 1 trade deadline looming, the rumors turned into a matter of “when,” not “if,” McCaffrey would be dealt. Once the Panthers committed to finding a deal for McCaffrey, the process was accelerated, according to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero.

Getting a deal done before the next game is beneficial for both sides. For Carolina, the only way the team was going to maximize the return for McCaffrey was if he was healthy. McCaffrey’s injury issues have been well-known, but he has not missed a game yet this season. By getting a deal done before another game that could potentially diminish his value, the Panthers capitalize on the return.

For San Francisco, acquiring McCaffrey more than a week before the trade deadline allows him to get into the building quicker and learn the system. The 49ers are in a tight race in the NFC West and need to grab every win they can. Getting McCaffrey into a game, even if it is just one more than expected, helps.

With their top offensive player now out of the picture, the Panthers have their eyes on maintaining possession of the No. 1 pick. As Week 7 begins, the Panthers have that top spot, as it owns the worst record in the league.