Panthers Reportedly Ready To Move On From Christian McCaffrey | Will Injuries Be The End Of White Lightning?

(Photo: Getty Images)

The Carolina Panthers haven’t had much to cheer about the past couple of seasons. Embattled head coach Matt Rhule, who signed seven-year, $62 million deal in 2020, has a paltry 10-22 record in two seasons heading into Sunday’s season finale. On Saturday it was announced that Rhule will return for the 2022 season.

A huge reason for Carolina’s erratic play has been instability at quarterback after a decade of Cam Newton that ended in the complete deterioration of the former MVP and his split with the franchise. Journeyman Teddy Bridgewater did a lukewarm job, and he was followed by punch-drunk Sam Darnold. The team even brought Newton back in late November, that’s how bad the QB position has been in Carolina.

The absence of star running back Christian McCaffrey has had the biggest impact. Run CMC has played in just 10 of those 32 games with Rhule as the head coach.

The rumor is the Panthers are open to trading their talented but oft-injured tailback.

McCaffrey Has Been Injury Prone: He’s Missed 24 Games In His Five-Year Career

Run CMC began his career by playing in all first 48 games, with 42 starts. His natural game-breaking running and receiving ability was on full display from the first time he touched the field in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina.

In 2019, McCaffrey became just the third player in league history to rush for 1,000 yards and have 1,000 yards receiving in the same season. He joined Pro Football Hall of Famer Marshall Faulk and former 49ers legend Roger Craig.

Back-To-Back Season-Ending Injuries To Run CMC Have Killed The Panthers

Season-ending injuries in back-to-back seasons is a sign of how brutal the running back position is on the body. McCaffrey is feeling every bit of those effects. When the Panthers gave McCaffrey a four-year, $64M contract extension, making him the highest-paid running back in the NFL, he deserved it. He was the focal point on offense — on the ground and through the air.

“White Lightning” was even the most targeted offensive player in his first three seasons. But that’s the issue with building an offensive scheme around a running back. When he gets injured, it puts the entire offense in a tough spot.

Panthers Won’t Get As Much As They Want For McCaffrey

The injuries to McCaffrey have made a trade for him a lot harder, and the Panthers won’t receive anything near what his talent should command. His injury history has dispelled that notion. The money being paid to McCaffrey has restricted the team from bettering itself.

Teams just aren’t going to be willing to trade a lot of assets for a back who’s always injured and has $44 million remaining on his current deal. There will be a team or two who looks at the fact he’s an all-purpose back who is under contract until 2025. In 2019, Run CMC posted a career-high 404 touches as he made history. But soft tissue and ankle injuries have been a huge part of his setback the past two seasons.

The Panthers drafted Chuba Hubbard in the 2020 NFL draft to be a change of pace back with CMC, but he’s been pressed into the starting role.

Run CMC is considered damaged goods around the league now, and taking a chance on him is just too risky for most teams. It only takes one team to engage, show interest and pull the trigger.


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