Christian McCaffrey

Panthers GM Marty Hurney On Newton, McCaffrey, Rebuilding

In a recent chat with Joe Person of The Athletic, Panthers GM Marty Hurney said he did “nothing that was out of bounds” while talking with Mississippi State quarterback Tommy Stevens during the draft. If the NFL disagrees with Hurney’s assessment, the Panthers and Saints could be penalized by the league office. 

Beyond that weirdness, Hurney was also asked about the Panthers’ eventful offseason and their plans moving forward. Here’s a look at some of the highlights:

On No. 7 overall pick Derrick Brown and whether he would have traded down if Brown was gone

Every year we go into the draft, and wherever we’re picking, we have a group of guys that we would take there. Obviously, he was the guy we were hoping that would get to us, and we’re fortunate that he did…You consider everything. How you approach the draft is how you approach everything else every day: You cover every scenario. So we had all sorts of options. But it didn’t get to that point. 

On Cam Newton‘s ongoing free agency

I don’t know. I’m just focused on us and trying to get us the best we can be for this season. I can’t speak for other teams. I do have great respect for him, but I can’t answer for other teams.

On Christian McCaffrey‘s record-breaking extension

Christian’s ability and his performance as a receiver is very unique to the running back position, as you can see by the 1,000-1,000 marks that he surpassed last year. He really is a different type of running back at the position than maybe we would’ve thought of three, five, ten years ago because of his ability to create mismatches as a receiver, his ability to run between the tackles, his ability to make big plays. He really is a combination running back/wide receiver. All those things led to us — and as you said, his ability as a leader, the type of commitment that he shows, the type of person that he is, the way he comes every day to get better — all those things went into play.

On the notion of rebuilding

I approach it as one good decision at a time. Every year you have a lot of changes. I think the league average is 33 percent or so, and maybe over 60 percent every two years. Obviously, we’ve had a lot of changes, not only on the player side but the coaching side. You’re always trying to build the most competitive team you can build. I think we have gotten younger, and I think we have a good mix of veterans and young players. We’re just excited to work with them and improve every day. 

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

This Date In Transactions History: Panthers Sign Christian McCaffrey 

Three years ago today, the Panthers signed their new franchise face. Christian McCaffrey, the No. 8 overall pick, inked his first deal and became the first player in the 2017 class to finalize his rookie deal. 

[RELATED: PFR’s 2021 Option Tracker For The 2017 NFL Draft Class]

McCaffrey, per one NFL GM who spoke with ESPN’s Adam Schefter, had “the best combine workout” he’s ever seen. “Ever.” The Panthers more or less agreed, selecting him to bolster an offense that badly needed his blend of running ability and pass-catching acumen. In 2016, the Panthers ranked just 25th in DVOA. With McCaffrey to take the torch from established veteran Jonathan Stewart, they were off and running.

Heading into the draft, McCaffrey was a wanted man. The Broncos tried to make a legacy pick for Ed McCaffrey’s son with an offer to move up from No. 20. The Eagles, at No. 14, also wanted him. Ditto for several other clubs. Too bad, GM Marty Hurney said.

McCaffrey made his mark as a receiver immediately. As a rookie, he hauled in 80 catches for 651 yards, including a ten-catch game against the Eagles, just to rub it in (though, the Eagles won 28-23 thanks to two Zach Ertz touchdowns). As an NFL sophomore, the Stanford product stepped up his game to a whole new level – nearly 1,110 yards rushing, 107 catches for 867 yards, and 13 total touchdowns. And, last year, he was just flat out ridiculous: 1,387 yards on the ground, 116 catches for 1,005 yards, and 19 TDs all together. Similar to Le’Veon Bell in his prime years, McCaffrey has solidified himself as an elite RB1 and a top-level WR2, all rolled into one.

McCaffrey’s first contract paid him roughly $17.2MM over four years with a signing bonus of ~$10.7MM. This year, the Panthers rewarded him by effectively bypassing the fifth-year option process. CMC is now the highest-paid running back in NFL history thanks to his four-year, $64MM deal. That’s good for an average annual value of $16MM and a commitment through the 2025 season. (And, to the Panthers credit, they’ll be reasonably well protected against any unforeseen snags. The deal has $30MM fully guaranteed with $38MM in practical guarantees.)

The Eagles (Derek Barnett) and Broncos (Garett Bolles) wish they could go back in time and make a Godfather offer for CMC, but hindsight is 20/20 and rocket ships don’t have rear views. Today, the Panthers’ new head coach is pretty happy with how it all turned out.

To label him a running back, that’s not respectful to him,” Matt Rhule said earlier this year. “He’s a tailback/wideout. He can do it all. I’m anxious to get him out there and to continue to build this thing around him.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Details On Christian McCaffrey’s New Deal

On Monday, the Panthers locked up Christian McCaffrey for the long haul – and it did not come cheap. McCaffrey secured the bag and stole the highest-paid-running-back-in-NFL-history mantle from Cowboys star Ezekiel Elliott, who set the record less than a year ago.

[RELATED: Panthers Sign Christian McCaffrey To Record-Breaking Deal]

Details on the four-year, $64MM deal are starting to trickle out. Often times, the fine print of NFL contracts aren’t kind to players and agents, but that’s not the case here. Well over half of CMC’s deal is guaranteed, Albert Breer of The MMQB (on Twitter) hears, a sign that new head coach Matt Rhule is willing to reward talented players who fit his scheme.

The four years at $64MM represent the “new money” portion of the deal. All together, the deal will take McCaffrey through the 2025 season for roughly $75MM, as Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com tweets. The deal, predictably, has made the soon-to-be 24-year-old very happy.

Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk passes along even more details on the contract, noting that just over $30MM of McCaffrey’s deal — his $21.5MM signing bonus, his $825K 2020 base salary, and $7.74MM of his $8.03MM 2021 base salary — is fully guaranteed at signing. Additionally, another $8.1MM becomes fully guaranteed next March, so unless something unthinkable happens, the practical guarantees exceed $38MM. Florio also passes along the salary figures for the entirety of the deal, and he notes that McCaffrey can earn $200K per year in workout bonuses from 2021-25.

I’m so excited to continue my career in Carolina,” McCaffrey said in a statement (Twitter link via ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter) “I want to thank Mr. Tepper, Marty Hurney, and Coach Rhule for the opportunity to help lead this great franchise, and to all my teammates for their help along the way. And to Panthers fans, KEEP POUNDING!

McCaffrey’s contract reflects his value as both an elite tailback and a high-end receiving weapon. That was part of the rationale used by the Jets to give Le’Veon Bell his ill-fated monster deal, but that comp would be unfair to McCaffrey. As a younger player with much better conditioning, McCaffrey has a better chance of living up to his deal than Bell ever had.

To label him a running back, that’s not respectful to him,” Rhule said of CMC recently (via ESPN.com). “He’s a tailback/wideout. He can do it all. I’m anxious to get him out there and to continue to build this thing around him.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Panthers, Christian McCaffrey Agree To Record-Breaking Extension

Christian McCaffrey has agreed to a new four-year deal with the Panthers, as Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. The deal, worth an eye-popping $16MM 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 $64MM 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, one-time 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, $90MM extension. Now, CMC has beaten that $15MM AAV by a cool $1MM. 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, $60MM 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.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Panthers Mulling Christian McCaffrey Extension

The Panthers have internally discussed a new long-term deal for star running back Christian McCaffrey, GM Marty Hurney says (Twitter link via ESPN.com’s David Newton).

[RELATED: Panthers Aren’t Shopping Curtis Samuel]

Obviously, we’ve had internal discussions. Everybody knows what we think of Christian as a player. Other than that I can’t really say any more,” Hurney said.

McCaffrey is heading into the final year of his rookie deal, though the Panthers still hold a fifth-year option on him for the 2021 season. It’s no secret that the Panthers want to keep CMC for the long haul, but they don’t necessarily have to rush things, either.

The Panthers will have to weigh CMC’s performance and massive potential against the past perils of running back contracts. In the summer of 2018, the Rams handed Todd Gurley a four-year, $60MM deal to make him the highest-paid RB in the NFL. At the time, Gurley was fresh off of winning the league’s Offensive Player of the Year trophy. Less than two years later, the Rams released him outright. That’s just the latest example of a high-priced RB deal going south and no tailback is immune from the risk of injury – that includes McCaffrey.

CMC, who won’t turn 24 until June, earned his first career Pro Bowl and First-Team All-Pro selections in 2019. Even though the Panthers struggled on the whole, he managed 1,387 rushing yards off of 287 carries, good for an average of 4.8 yards per tote. And, for good measure, he added another 116 catches for 1,005 yards receiving. All together, he scored 19 touchdowns on the year.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Stanford RB Bryce Love Tore ACL In Final Game

Though it was not reported at the time, Stanford running back and NFL draft hopeful Bryce Love tore his ACL during his final regular season game, Yahoo Sports’ Pete Thamel writes

Thamel reports the star back underwent surgery to repair the injury on Dec. 18 with Dr. James Andrews and is expected to make a full recovery. He will be at the NFL Draft Combine in February, but will obviously be extremely limited. He is also too early in the rehab process to have a return date set.

“I’m very grateful to Dr. Andrews and his team for making the surgery a seamless process,” Love said in a statement to Yahoo Sports. “Obviously, there’s no such thing as an ideal injury, but I’m on the path to recovery, and my goal remains the same — getting drafted by an NFL team and being the ultimate professional. I’ll be back better than I’ve ever been.”

Love burst on the scene as a junior, taking over for the departed Christian McCaffrey in Stanford’s backfield and rushing for 2,118 yards and 19 touchdowns in 2017. The breakout season helped him finish second in the Heisman Trophy balloting, behind only Baker Mayfield. His senior campaign was not as impressive, however, as Love logged just 739 yards on 166 carries in 10 games.

According to WalterFootball.com, Love is tabbed as the No. 5 running back prospect in the upcoming draft, with a projected draft spot coming in Round 2 or 3. That is likely to take a plunge following the news of the serious knee injury.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

East Notes: McDonald, Giants, Eagles, Jets

Signing T.J. McDonald to a one-year deal despite an eight-game suspension looming, the Dolphins will prepare throughout the offseason as though the safety is part of the plan. McDonald signed a one-year, $1.344MM deal that will only guarantee the Dolphins eight regular-season games of service. But he makes for an interesting complement to Reshad Jones, and the Fins’ offseason and preseason could display those looks, even if their September and October slate won’t.

We’re just going to practice him,” Adam Gase said today, via Jason Lieser of the Palm Beach Post. “We’re going to give him the reps that he needs. We’ve got to go through our process with him. I’ve played against him, but I haven’t seen him practice and go through a daily routine and all those type of things, so we need to get used to him as he needs to get used to us.

It’s a good signing for us because we feel like that position is something that we didn’t do as well as we needed to. Last year, we got a little thin and some guys had to really step up and play and try to fill into some roles and they were playing multiple roles.”

Nate Allen leads a cast of safeties expected to vie for the Fins’ back-line job alongside Jones while McDonald is out.

Here’s more from the Eastern divisions.

  • The Giants did not allocate many resources to bolstering a middling offensive line, pointing to the incumbents being given another chance. Although the team added guard/tackle D.J. Fluker on a lower-level deal, Paul Schwartz of the New York Post believes Bobby Hart will still be given every chance to keep the right tackle job. This arrangement could potentially pit Fluker against recently re-signed right guard John Jerry, whom Pro Football Focus assessed as enjoying a bounce-back season in 2016. The 22-year-old Hart being a priority over putting Fluker and Jerry in the lineup together would be interesting given his history as a former seventh-round pick and a player whom PFF graded as the No. 67 full-time tackle last season.
  • Christian McCaffrey and Dalvin Cook fascinated the Eagles, but the price to move up in Rounds 1-2 to be in range to select them was too steep, Jeff McLane of Philly.com notes. The Eagles evidently believed the gap between McCaffrey and Cook was wide enough they didn’t want to use their No. 14 overall pick on a Florida State runner who plummeted into the second round. Cook went to the Vikings at 41, two spots before the Eagles went with Sidney Jones. Philly signed LeGarrette Blount earlier this week and is expected to cut Ryan Mathews once he’s healthy.
  • Former Redskins GM Scot McCloughan saw current Washington third-string quarterback Nate Sudfeld as a player who could be a starter after a few development seasons, J.P. Finlay of CSNMidAtlantic.com writes. This will be Year 2 for the 2016 sixth-round pick, who sits behind Kirk Cousins and Colt McCoy on the depth chart.
  • The Jets are focused on seeing if Christian Hackenberg can pan out rather than eyeing the as-of-now highly acclaimed 2018 quarterback class, Rich Cimini of ESPN.com writes. Cimini, though, does note that scouts are particularly intrigued by Wyoming’s Josh Allen, whom he adds could end up being taken No. 1 overall next year despite large-school competition from Sam Darnold (USC) and Josh Rosen (UCLA). The Jets appear to be in rebuilding mode, and in signing Josh McCown for one year, would possibly have a route to one of the aforementioned passing prospects — if Hackenberg stock falls this season.

Panthers Sign Entire Draft Class

The Panthers have signed their entire 2017 draft class. One day after inking first-round selection Christian McCaffrey, all seven Carolina draft picks are now officially in the fold:

Elder and Butker were the last to agree, but they put pen to paper after Friday morning’s rookie camp session. As shown in PFR’s team-by-team draft breakdown, the Panthers are the first team to sign their entire draft class.

According to Lance Zierlein of NFL.com, Samuel’s game is reminiscent of Oregon product Josh Huff. Opinions are split on how this well-rounded receiver’s game will translate as a pro.

It’s kind of like with Jalin Marshall last year,” a regional scout told Zierlein. “How do you use him? He’s not a running back and his routes and hands really aren’t that good. Marshall went undrafted. Samuel is a better athlete but they are about the same size and give you the same concerns with how to use them.”

According to Albert Breer of The MMQB (Twitter link), there is offset language in McCaffrey’s deal.

Panthers Sign Christian McCaffrey

The Panthers are now the first club to reach a deal with a 2017 first-round pick, as the club announced it has signed running back Christian McCaffrey. Carolina has also inked second-round offensive lineman Taylor Moton and sixth-round fullback Alex Armah.Christian McCaffrey (Vertical)

McCaffrey, the eighth overall pick in last week’s draft, should immediately factor into a Panthers offense that ranked 25th in DVOA last season. A running back by trade, McCaffrey may end up playing a good deal of receiver, especially with established veteran Jonathan Stewart still lurking in the backfield. McCaffrey should be in line for a four-year deal worth roughly $17.241MM (signing bonus of ~$10.679MM). Carolina will also hold a fifth-year option on McCaffrey for the 2021 campaign.

Moton, meanwhile, should compete for the Panthers’ starting right tackle job. Third-year pro Daryl Williams looks to be Moton’s primary competition, as Michael Oher is still dealing with concussion issues (and was recently cited for misdemeanor assault). Moton, a Western Michigan product, will earn $6.454MM over the life of his four-year contract.

In addition to signing three of their seven draft picks, the Panthers announced they’ve also agreed to terms with the following undrafted college free agents: linebacker Ben Boulware, defensive end Bryan Cox Jr., wide receiver Austin Duke, cornerback Cole Luke, and wide receiver Fred Ross.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Broncos Tried To Trade Up For Christian McCaffrey

The Broncos tried to make a legacy pick tonight. They explored moving up from No. 20 to land running back Christian McCaffrey, but they were ultimately unsuccessful, as Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. The Broncos also inquired about Joe Thomas‘ availability, but they wound up staying at No. 20 and drafting Garett Bolles instead. Christian McCaffrey (Featured)

Thomas was a trade candidate as the deadline last year and many believed that he would be on the block this offseason. In December, coach Hue Jackson denied that Thomas would be shopped.

That is not happening, OK? — or I am going with him,” Jackson said. “OK? I guarantee you that. I am going with him.”

Thomas is due to make a non-guaranteed $10MM salary in both ’17 and ’18, so teams like the Broncos were not necessarily warded off by his contract. Last year, he graded out as the league’s No. 8 offensive tackle, according to Pro Football Focus. The Broncos would have loved to add him, but they could not pry him away.