Christian McCaffrey

49ers RB Christian McCaffrey, CB Ambry Thomas Out For Week 18

The 49ers have locked up the NFC’s top seed, making their regular season finale a game with no impact on the standings. That is a welcomed development given the team’s injury situation at a few key positions.

Running back Christian McCaffrey exited Sunday’s win with a calf injury, and it will lead to an absence to close out the campaign. The NFL’s rushing and scrimmage yards leader is dealing with a mild calf strain, per head coach Kyle Shanahan. To no surprise, therefore, McCaffrey will sit out the 49ers’ season finale against the Rams.

Since arriving via trade in San Francisco last year, the two-time Pro Bowler has been a vital component of the team’s vaunted skill-position group. McCaffrey has posted 2,205 yards and 20 touchdowns on the ground in 27 games with the 49ers, keeping himself in the MVP conversation through the 2023 season. Any missed time in the postseason would be crippling to the team’s offense, but an extra week of recovery (coupled with the first round bye) should have him healthy in time for the divisional round.

The same is expected to be true of cornerback Ambry Thomas. The 2021 third-rounder is set to undergo hand surgery today, as noted by ESPN’s Nick Wagoner. The procedure will keep him sidelined for Week 18, which will leave San Francisco shorthanded in the secondary. Fortunately, however, Thomas is on track to suit up for the team’s first postseason contest.

The 24-year-old has only logged a 49% snap share on defense this season, but he has established himself as a key member of the 49ers’ backend. Thomas has seen a career-high workload in 2023, spending almost all of his time on the perimeter. He has posted 43 tackles, seven pass deflections and one interception while recording a new personal best in PFF grades along the way. Thomas’ performance did not stop the 49ers from exploring a CB addition at the trade deadline, but any missed postseason action would be acutely felt on defense.

San Francisco will be shorthanded both by necessity and by choice to close out the regular season, but the team will face substantial expectations once their playoff journey begins. The health of both McCaffrey and Thomas will be important factors in the 49ers’ postseason success, so their respective recoveries will be worth watching over the next several days.

NFC West Rumors: McCaffrey, Smith, Lynch

In a recent deep dive on the value of NFL running backs by Dan Pompei of The Athletic, it was revealed that 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan reportedly liked running back Christian McCaffrey so much coming out of Stanford in 2017 that the team heavily considered taking him at No. 3 overall all in that year’s draft. That would’ve made McCaffrey the highest-drafted running back since Trent Richardson was selected third overall by the Browns in 2012.

Instead, of course, McCaffrey was selected five picks later by the Panthers. McCaffrey would immediately display his skill and versatility upon arrival in the NFL, being named a first-team All-Pro after leading the league in scrimmage yards (2,392) and touchdowns (19) in 2019. The following two years would be hampered with injury, limiting him to only 10 contests over that time, but it wouldn’t deter Shanahan from trading four draft picks for him in 2022, finally attaining the running back he so admired.

The 49ers, of course, selected McCaffrey’s college teammate, defensive end Solomon Thomas at No. 3 in 2017. Thomas failed to reach the heights of his draft stock, leading to his fifth-year option being declined. Unfortunately for Thomas, he would suffer a torn ACL two games into his contract year. Since leaving San Francisco in free agency, he has spent time with the Raiders and, his current team, the Jets.

Here are a few other rumors from around the NFC West:

  • Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith in playing this season on a shiny new contract that, at the original time of reporting, boasted an amount of $30MM to be earned through incentives. According to ESPN’s Brady Henderson, that doesn’t quite appear to be accurate. The supposed “incentives” have now been revealed to be escalators, which unlike incentives, are tied to non-guaranteed bonuses. For example, an incentive would pay Smith $30MM if he were to reach certain statistical benchmarks. In reality, with the escalator, Smith would need to reach those benchmarks and still be on the team’s roster by the fifth day of the new league year in order to boost his $9.6MM roster bonus to $24.6MM. There are a number of statistical benchmarks that Smith is not on track to reach (4,282 passing yards, 30 passing touchdowns, 69.755 percent completion rate, 100.874 passer rating), but he could still cash in on team benchmarks such as a playoff berth or a 10-win season.
  • When 49ers general manager John Lynch was given a multi-year extension alongside Shanahan back in September, the team executive was reportedly given an additional title, as well, to accompany the new contract, per Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports. In addition to his role as GM, Lynch will now also sport the title of president of football operations.

49ers’ Christian McCaffrey To Play In Week 7

12:14pm: An update from Schefter confirms that McCaffrey will indeed play tonight. He received treatment throughout the week, though Schefter adds he did not partake in any contract drills during his limited practice time. It will thus be interesting to see how he holds up in game action as he tries to extend his touchdown streak while avoiding any missed games since his arrival in San Francisco.

8:56am: The 49ers will be shorthanded on offense when they take the field against the Vikings tonight, but their backfield is set to be intact. Christian McCaffrey is expected to play, reports ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

McCaffrey exited San Francisco’s Week 6 loss with an oblique injury after having briefly attempted to re-enter the contest. His absence for part of the game contributed to San Francisco’s season-low scoring output and an underwhelming 108 rushing yards. Especially with wideout Deebo Samuel set to miss at least the next two games, a healthy McCaffrey would be a welcomed development for San Francisco’s offense.

Since being traded away by the Panthers last year, the latter has been as advertised with respect to his impact on the 49ers’ efficiency on the ground and through the air. McCaffrey posted 1,210 scrimmage yards and 10 total touchdowns in just 11 games in the Bay Area after the trade, and that success continued into the start of the 2023 campaign. The 27-year-old leads the league with 553 rushing yards, and even with the injury shortening his Week 6 appearance, he was able to continue his streak of scoring at least one rushing or receiving touchdown in every contest so far.

McCaffrey did not practice on Thursday or Friday, but he logged a limited session on Saturday to clear a path to suiting up for tonight’s primetime matchup. In case he is unable to play, former UDFA Jordan Mason would likely be in line to handle starting duties. The 24-year-old produced 27 yards and one touchdown on his five carries with McCaffrey out of the game, and it would be interesting to see if he could could carry over that efficiency with a full starter’s workload. For now, though, it appears that won’t be necessary.

In other San Francisco injury news, left tackle Trent Williams missed practice all week and is listed as doubtful for Monday’s game. The 10-time Pro Bowler was able to return to last week’s loss to the Browns while battling an ankle injury, but he was in a walking boot after the contest was over. That cast doubt on his ability to play tonight, and it is trending in the direction of a notable absence for the 49ers’ offense as they look to rebound from their only loss of the season so far.

Latest On RB Coalition

Last night, a group of the NFL’s veteran running backs got together on a Zoom call organized by Chargers rusher Austin Ekeler. There was a reportedly strong turnout of NFL-talent for a meeting that ultimately gained little ground. Mike Florio of NBC Sports was able to provide some details on what transpired during the meeting.

According to Florio, despite some of the league’s best backs being in attendance, little progress was made towards a solution. The league’s current collective bargaining agreement is in place through 2030, and it doesn’t provide the running backs much leeway in their options. The NFL Players Association, which was not a part of the conversation last night, can’t necessarily contribute much to the conversation as, due to the nature of a league with a salary cap, giving money to running backs necessitates that money be taken from other positions.

That didn’t stop NFLPA president JC Tretter from suggesting in an interview that running backs could simply stage hold-ins by embellishing, exaggerating, or simply fabricating injuries. That suggestion was brought up on the call but quickly dismissed as it would feed “into the narrative that (running backs are) prone to injury.” It would also provide backs further down the depth chart an opportunity to prove they’re a better roster value than they’re more “injury-prone” counterparts.

Other ideas that could help the group include the use of the league’s Performance-Based Pay Pool to supplement running back income, shortening the position’s track to a second contract, or making adjustments to the franchise tag formula. Performance-Based Pay would reward the league’s top backs whose production exceeds their meager contracts. Shortening rookie contracts for running backs is a complicated solution that would likely require the NFLPA to negotiate on behalf of the running backs, which, again, can take away from other positions represented by the Association.

The franchise tag formula provides two possible solutions. The first would see the formula modified to simply increase the value of running back tags. The normal calculation would be increased to make tagging rushers a bit more costly of an option and force teams to explore second contracts with more dedication. The second solution is actually a bit of an extension on the first, suggesting a source for that increase. Currently, all offensive linemen’s franchise tag amounts are based on the contracts of tackles (the highest earning members of their position group). For this reason, interior linemen often don’t get tagged because they would be paid a tackle’s rate. If the league were to break up the offensive line into three categories (tackles, guards, centers), the interior linemen would no longer be receiving tackle-money, providing some wiggle room for running backs.

One of the players who attended the call was Browns running back Nick Chubb, who spoke to the media about the discussion, according to Jake Trotter of ESPN. Chubb confirmed that such elite athletes as Christian McCaffrey, Derrick Henry, and Saquon Barkley all attended and contributed to the conversation.

Chubb also elaborated on the feeling of being handcuffed in terms of what action can be taken. He expanded on a common complaint that running back is the only position whose production hurts them. If they go out and rush for 2,000 yards, instead of being rewarded, they are assumed to be worn down. Chubb is a year away from a contract year himself, but he fully recognizes that he could find himself in this situation during the next offseason.

Regardless, right now, without the help of the NFLPA, there isn’t much for running backs to do. Some backs pointed out that their own agents have contributed to the problem (agents were not on the call). Often, agents will backload ridiculous numbers into a contract that inflate the annual average value (AAV) to amounts that a running back will never see.

Saints rusher Alvin Kamara‘s contract is a perfect example. With an AAV of $15MM, Kamara has only seen that much money in the first year of his deal, when he received a $15MM signing bonus. In 2021, he only received $2MM cash and, for the three subsequent years, he earned/will earn between $11MM and $11.80MM cash. These numbers are all so much lower than the AAV because, in the final year of the contract, Kamara is set to receive $25MM cash. The chances of Kamara reaching that final, big payout are extremely low, but that amount made what was really a $10MM per year contract much more palatable.

The running backs need to ensure that their agents are on the same page about whatever strategies they decide to implement. Florio wisely points out that, while teams are not allowed to collude in regard to negotiating strategies, players and their agents absolutely have the right to collaborate.

NFL Restructures: McCaffrey, Jones, Franklin-Myers, Jones

Here are a few details on recent contract restructures agreed to around the league:

  • The 49ers were able to reach an agreement on a restructured contract with star running back Christian McCaffrey last week, according to ESPN’s Field Yates, opening up $8.58MM in cap space. The team converted $10.72MM of McCaffrey’s 2023 base salary into a signing bonus and added two void years in order to reach the desired cap savings.
  • The Raiders were likewise able to restructure the contract of outside linebacker Chandler Jones to free up $5.07MM in cap space, according to Yates. Jones agreed to convert $6.33MM of his 2023 base salary into a signing bonus and add an additional void year to help Las Vegas reach those figures.
  • Yates also reports that the Jets reached an agreement last week to restructure defensive end John Franklin-Myers‘s contract. New York converted $4.32MM of Franklin-Myers’s 2023 base salary into a signing bonus to clear up $3.46MM in cap space.
  • In one of the least impactful updates we’ve reported, the Giantscap space decreased by $750K last week because of a corresponding increase to quarterback Daniel Jones‘s cap hit. According to Dan Duggan of The Athletic, the adjustment stems from an incentive Jones can earn this season if he plays over 65 percent of the team’s offensive snaps and wins the division. According to the league’s CBA, “any incentive bonus based on the team’s ranking in its Division automatically will be deemed ‘likely to be earned,'” which adds the incentive automatically to Jones’s 2023 cap hit.

AFC East Notes: Bills, Chubb, Moore, Bailey

The Bills were connected to a number of running backs leading up to the deadline, including major names like Christian McCaffrey and Alvin Kamara. Bills GM Brandon Beane, who worked for the Panthers for nearly 20 years, acknowledged that he discussed McCaffrey with his former team but never made a formal offer, per Jay Skurski of The Buffalo News. On the flip side, Beane said he never discussed Kamara with the Saints.

Ultimately, the Bills ended up landing on Nyheim Hines, who was acquired from the Colts for a conditional draft pick and running back Zack Moss. Beane told reporters that he spoke with the Colts on Monday night but talks really heated up right before the deadline.

“Another guy with speed, experience,” Beane said of Hines (via Skurski). “He can go out there and play slot. I mean, back at N.C. State, he was a punt returner, kick returner, receiver, running back. He can just – he can do a lot of things. So, when he’s in the huddle, the defense knows he’s in the game, but they don’t know exactly where he’s going to line up. I think you’ll see that as James (Cook) gets going, too – you know, you don’t want to overload a rookie, but he’ll be used more as a receiver, slot, things like that. So this just gives us a guy who’s proven, who can add in, and we’ll see. But if we needed him to go play slot receiver for a game, once he picks up the offense, he’s got that skill set.”

Buffalo also acquired safety Dean Marlowe from the Falcons for a seventh-round pick. While neither the Marlowe nor Hines acquisitions stole headlines, Beane is confident that these depth moves will ultimately pay off in the long run.

“Neither one of these moves at 1 o’clock were anywhere near happening,” Beane said. “So if they didn’t happen, for whatever reason, I could have sat up here, said we believe in who we got, and we do, but … I’m always going to look. If it makes sense for the Buffalo Bills, today and long term, we’re going to try and make it happen. Of the two guys we got, there’s another 100-plus that we looked into. … I think we looked at, dug deep on just 10 safeties alone, but we looked at other positions – is there a chance to acquire a depth (player)? Maybe not a starter, but a depth piece, just to shore us up, should injury happen. But these were the two that we felt made the most sense.”

More notes from around the AFC East:

  • The Dolphins quickly signed their major deadline acquisition to an extension, inking Bradley Chubb a five-year, $110MM deal ($63.2MM guaranteed) earlier today. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport provides some more details (via Twitter) on that guaranteed money, noting that $33.4MM of the total is fully guaranteed at signing, while $53MM becomes fully guaranteed in 2023.
  • Elijah Moore was hoping for a trade out of New York prior to the deadline, and while Jets GM Joe Douglas acknowledged that he received “some calls” on the wideout, he made it sound like the front office never seriously entertained offers (per ESPN’s Rich Cimini on Twitter). “We love Elijah,” Douglas said (via’s Kevin Patra). “We all stood on the table to take him high in the second round last year, and we think the world of him. Obviously, we’re a football family and anytime there’s an issue, we like to handle that in-house. But I was able to have a really good one-on-one conversation with Elijah. We think the world of him; we think he has a bright future as a New York Jet.”
  • Jets offensive tackle Mekhi Becton has been rehabbing a season-ending knee injury, and Douglas said there’s some optimism that he’ll be ready to go for next year’s OTAs (per Brian Costello of the New York Post on Twitter). The lineman specifically suffered an avulsion fracture of the right kneecap, knocking him out for a pivotal campaign. The 2020 first-round pick missed the majority of his sophomore season with a knee injury.
  • Patriots punter Jake Bailey has struggled this season, leading ESPN’s Mike Reiss to wonder if the veteran could be playing for his job. After working out a number of punters, the team ended up adding Michael Palardy to the practice squad, a further indication that Bailey’s job is on thin ice. “Right now we’re working through some things,” said special teams coordinator Cameron Achord. “Jake’s going to be OK. Jake’s a pro … He still has all the talent.” Bailey is averaging a career-low 42.9 yards per punt, and his 62.2 percent touchback percentage is also a career-worst mark.

Rams Included Cam Akers In Christian McCaffrey Proposal; Broncos, Eagles Made Offers

It took four picks for the 49ers to pry Christian McCaffrey from the Panthers. No strangers to exiting trade or free agency sweepstakes with wins, the Rams made a similar offer. It came down to a Day 3 pick for San Francisco’s proposal to win out.

The Rams offered the Panthers second- and third-round 2023 picks, along with fourth- and fifth-rounders in 2024, Albert Breer of reports. The defending Super Bowl champions also included Cam Akers in their proposal, Breer adds, but the Panthers went with the 49ers’ offer because it included a fourth-rounder in 2023 as opposed to 2024.

Last year’s Sony Michel trade stripped the Rams of their 2023 fourth-rounder; the team sent the Patriots fourth- and sixth-round picks for Michel. The Rams have their first-, second- and third-round picks in 2024, for now, but are not believed to have included any of those choices in their McCaffrey proposal. The value of the 2023 selections will come down to how the NFC West teams finish this season, but the Panthers still viewed the 49ers’ offer as more attractive.

[RELATED: Bills Did Not Make Offer For McCaffrey]

Los Angeles is still trying to move Akers, who could be a chip for the teams that missed out on McCaffrey. However, one of the teams involved in the sweepstakes moved on with a cheaper solution. The Broncos signed Marlon Mack on Monday morning, doing so in the wake of losing Mike Boone suffering an ankle injury against the Jets. Denver adding McCaffrey at this point, amid an October freefall, would have made less sense than the All-Pro back going to a 2022 contender.

Mentioned as a McCaffrey suitor, the Broncos joined the Eagles in making noncompetitive offers, Breer adds. Both teams are believed to have made offers involving third- or fourth-round picks to see if the Panthers were keen on taking a discount to move the high-priced running back. Considering what the Rams and 49ers proposed, the Broncos and Eagles’ efforts were nonstarters for the Panthers.

Midway through last season, the Eagles pivoted to a run-based attack around Jalen Hurts. The team has Miles Sanders atop its backfield depth chart, but the former second-round pick is in a contract year. Ditto Boston Scott. Kenneth Gainwell and Trey Sermon are each signed through 2024, though neither is obviously close to McCaffrey’s level. McCaffrey would have been an interesting piece for Philly, given his passing-game prowess. The Eagles’ offense has not involved much usage for backs through the air; Sanders leads Philly’s backs with 11 catches for 42 yards this season. And it does not sound like the Eagles, who have been in many trade derbies under Howie Roseman, were too interested here.

The first team to call the Panthers on McCaffrey, the 49ers put the trade prize to work quickly. McCaffrey received 10 touches Sunday against the Chiefs, despite not going through a full practice with his new team yet. Rather than add Akers as a CMC replacement, the Panthers turned to backups D’Onta Foreman and Chuba Hubbard in Week 7. The duo combined for a staggering 208 scrimmage yards against the Buccaneers on Sunday. Foreman is on an expiring contract; Hubbard’s rookie deal runs through 2024.

49ers RB Christian McCaffrey To Play Today Against Chiefs

After only two days in a new system, it appears that former Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey will suit up to play for his new team against the Chiefs today, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network. This isn’t much of a surprise, as it was widely expected that the 49ers would have some package of plays that they feel confident putting the dynamic, dual-threat runner into, but, apparently, McCaffrey has surprised his new team with just how much of the offense he’s been able to pick up in a short period.

The 49ers initially thought McCaffrey would be unlikely to suit up for today’s game when they acquired him, but the 26-year-old reportedly immersed himself in the 49ers’ offensive scheme shortly after the trade was agreed to, according to ESPN. Because he’s been able to pick up the offense so quickly, San Francisco feels confident in the package of plays they’ll be able to utilize him in for their gameplan against the Chiefs.

McCaffrey has been having a bit of a resurgent season. After not missing a single game in his first three seasons, McCaffrey only played in 10 of a possible 33 games over the past two years due to a sequence of shoulder, hamstring, and ankle injuries. Unfortunately, the 49ers know all too well about running back injuries and, this year, about injuries in general. Thankfully for them, McCaffrey has played 85% of Carolina’s snaps this year and his 670 combined rushing and receiving yards, accumulated in the league’s 30th ranked offense in total yards, is just a taste of what he can provide for the Niners offense.

In an offense that praises duality, the 49ers could not have hand-crafted a better running back than McCaffrey. In his last full season, McCaffrey became the third player in NFL history, after Roger Craig and Marshall Faulk, to record both 1,000 yards rushing and receiving in the same season. Pairing that with Deebo Samuel‘s prowess both receiving and rushing and one of the best blocking and receiving tight ends in the game, George Kittle, gives Jimmy Garoppolo an embarrassment of riches. Not to mention that the 49ers still plan to transition the offense to quarterback Trey Lance, whose rushing abilities at North Dakota State netted him 1,100 yards and 14 rushing touchdowns in 2019. There may not be a more versatile offensive skills group than the 2023 49ers.

For now, though, it appears the 49ers will try to ease McCaffrey into the offense with a specific package of plays. All the dreams of what he can bring to this offense are soon to come, but there’s only so much one can learn in two days’ time.

Bills Never Made Christian McCaffrey Offer?

The early birds in the Christian McCaffrey trade derby, the Bills saw the price rise to an untenable place. The 49ers ended up acquiring the All-Pro running back for a four-pick compensation package, but the Bills may not have been the third team to submit a firm offer.

These sweepstakes came down to the 49ers and Rams, but the Bills stayed in touch with the Panthers throughout. Despite the Bills doing so and calling the Panthers about McCaffrey this offseason, Albert Breer of notes Buffalo is not believed to have made an offer (Twitter link). Panthers GM Scott Fitterer said three offers came in. A report earlier Friday indicated the Broncos also did not propose trade terms, leaving the identity of the third offer a mystery.

Buffalo is believed to be prioritizing its 2023 first-round pick, despite it being a weapon neither Los Angeles nor San Francisco possessed. The Matthew Stafford and Trey Lance trades, respectively, stripped the Rams and 49ers of their 2023 first-rounders. But the Bills did not want to include a first for McCaffrey.

The Bills were among the first to call the Panthers on McCaffrey during these in-season sweepstakes, Breer adds. But, as the Panthers informed the Bills where the trade talks were heading, Buffalo’s Carolina-imported brass stood down. Considering McCaffrey’s injury history and the high costs on the Bills’ payroll — a rumored issue regarding McCaffrey’s high salaries from 2023-25 — it is understandable they did not want to include their top 2023 draft asset.

Bills-Panthers connections have produced several Buffalo-to-Charlotte treks since Sean McDermott and Brandon Beane arrived in Buffalo. Josh Norman, Mario Addison, Kelvin Benjamin, A.J. Klein, Daryl Williams and Vernon Butler, among others, all stopped through Buffalo during the McDermott-Beane rebuild. Current Panthers assistant GM Dan Morgan was also with the Bills from 2018-20, strengthening the pipeline between these organizations. Hired to succeed Doug Whaley shortly after the 2017 draft, Beane was still with the Panthers when they chose McCaffrey eighth overall that year. But the 49ers were the first team to send the Panthers a CMC offer. The Stanford alum also was believed to prefer a San Francisco landing.

The Bills have assembled probably their best team since at least 1993, but their run game has been Josh Allen-dependent for multiple seasons now. Allen’s 257 rushing yards lead the team, though Devin Singletary has 256. Singletary and second-round pick James Cook lead Buffalo’s backfield, with Zack Moss having drifted off the radar. The Bills used a second-round pick on Cook and have Singletary in a contract year. Barring a trade for another back, this coalition will represent Buffalo’s backfield during the team’s latest Super Bowl push.

CMC Trade Fallout: Panthers, Offers, 49ers, Draft, Shanahan, Rams, Bills, Broncos, RBs

While reports indicating Christian McCaffrey‘s availability appeared at select points this year, this process began to heat up in the days after Matt Rhule‘s firing. Last week became a tipping point, with McCaffrey’s position on the trade block becoming a relentless NFL story.

Scott Fitterer said he received initial McCaffrey offers last Friday, and while the team fell just short of receiving a first-round equivalent, the second-year GM said the combined value comes close (Twitter links via’s Darin Gantt). Interest picked up over the past two days, and Fitterer said three teams submitted hard offers.

The 49ers were the first team to reach out, Albert Breer of tweets, doing so last Friday. Other teams started calling Tuesday. The process concluded with the 49ers sending the Panthers second-, third- and fourth-round picks in 2023 and a fifth-rounder in 2024.

It is safe to say the Rams were one of the final three. They were viewed as the silver medalist for the dual-threat running back, with’s Peter Schrager indicating the Rams’ interest helped fuel the 49ers’ pursuit (video link). This reminds of 2021’s Matthew Stafford sweepstakes, when the 49ers pursued the veteran quarterback only to see the Rams swoop in late with a monster offer.

Cam Akers‘ struggles recapturing his pre-Achilles-tear form already led to some issues in the Rams’ backfield, matters compounded by injuries on their offensive line, but the third-year back’s trade likelihood further complicates this situation. Darrell Henderson resides as Los Angeles’ top back, but the team may still be on the lookout. Though, absent a talent like McCaffrey, it is possible the defending Super Bowl champions focus their pre-deadline efforts on higher-value positions.

The Bills may have been the third team. Buffalo checked in on McCaffrey this offseason, and while the team did not submit an offer then, it wanted a courtesy call in the event Carolina became serious about moving its All-Pro back. The Bills possessed an advantage on the Rams and 49ers, in holding their 2023 first-round pick. But Buffalo wanted to hold onto that choice, Jonathan Jones of CBS Sports notes. McCaffrey’s future salaries ($11.8MM, $11.8MM, $12MM) were potentially problematic for a Bills team — one that extended Josh Allen in 2021, Stefon Diggs in 2022 and signed Von Miller in free agency — that features high costs atop its payroll.

Rumored as a suitor late last week, the Broncos called the Panthers about the Colorado native, Jay Glazer of Fox Sports notes. The team is not believed to have submitted an offer, however, per Jones. The Broncos could have put together a long-term McCaffrey-Javonte Williams partnership, though the latter — ACL tear notwithstanding — profiles as a potential star and is signed through 2024. Denver’s Russell Wilson contract also would have made bringing McCaffrey home more complicated.

While McCaffrey is not going home, he is returning to the region in which he starred in college. The former Heisman finalist at Stanford expressed interest for the past few days in returning to the Bay Area and playing for Kyle Shanahan, Tim Kawakami of The Athletic writes (subscription required). The 26-year-old back has known Kyle Shanahan most of his life, with the two being around the Mike Shanahan-era Broncos due to their fathers’ 1990s and 2000s Denver stays. Ed McCaffrey, a backup behind Jerry Rice and John Taylor during the 49ers’ 1994 Super Bowl-winning season, was with the Broncos from 1995-2003.

San Francisco still holds two third-round picks next year — due to Washington’s Martin Mayhew GM hire and Miami’s Mike McDaniel HC addition — but is now without first- or second-round choices. Shanahan confirmed McCaffrey would not be a rental, and Trey Lance‘s rookie deal will pair well with CMC’s salaries. But the team stands to enter next year’s draft with a Rams-like pick allotment.

It’s great to have these draft picks and stuff,” Shanahan said during a KNBR appearance (via the San Francisco Chronicle’s Eric Branch). “That’s how you build your team. That’s how we build our team here is through the draft. But when you know you have a guaranteed guy and you don’t have to worry about three picks, hoping one of them will [work out], you just go get that guy. That’s something that I feel you never look back on. It’s rare that you can get those opportunities.”

In terms of how the Panthers will proceed going forward, Steve Wilks said the team will use a committee approach to replace McCaffrey. Carolina had used McCaffrey as a workhorse whenever he was available, a blueprint that may have contributed to his injury trouble over the past two years. But D’Onta Foreman and Chuba Hubbard stand to pick up the slack. Running back will likely be a Panthers 2023 need.