Already without a first-round pick for the second straight season after dealing multiple selections to the Dolphins to move up and select quarterback Trey Lance in the draft two offseasons ago, the San Francisco 49ers decided to copy the championship model of the Los Angeles Rams and are all-in for a Super Bowl after dealing even more draft capital to the Panthers for star running back Christian McCaffrey.
To secure McCaffrey, who starred in college at Stanford and has been the lone bright spot in Carolina for the past few seasons, the 49ers are sending the Panthers picks in the second, third and fourth rounds of the 2023 draft as well as a fifth-rounder in 2024.
With the move, San Francisco head coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch are pushing their chips into the center of the table and betting that a team that is 3-3 following an upset loss to the Atlanta Falcons can go on a Super Bowl run after coming up a game short last season with a loss in the conference championship to the Rams.
Shanahan and Lynch likely had the Rams in mind when they made the move for McCaffrey as Los Angeles made a similarly impactful acquisition a year ago when they traded their second- and third-round picks in the 2022 draft to the Broncos in exchange for game-breaking linebacker Von Miller. Mortgaging the future for Miller, who is now a member of the Buffalo Bills, paid off for LA as the Rams won the Super Bowl. The Niners, who are now quarterbacked by Jimmy Garoppolo following a season-ending injury to Lance, are hoping for a similar result after snagging 26-year-old McCaffrey.
While there are no guarantees in life or the NFL, San Francisco’s gamble may pay off as the team now has a deep pool of talented playmakers as dual-threat McCaffrey, who has a $990,000 salary this year after Carolina reworked his contract and is owed about $36 million over the next three years (none of which is guaranteed) joins a dynamic group that already includes versatile receiver Deebo Samuel, star tight end George Kittle and receiver Brandon Aiyuk. Pair those playmakers with a talented defense that leads the NFL this season in fewest yards allowed this season (255.8) and has led the NFL in fewest yards allowed (303.5) since losing the Super Bowl LIV to end the 2019 season, and San Francisco may have themselves a winner.
“I’m forever grateful for all of the people who have helped make these past 5 1/2 years so special for me. Thank you from the bottom of my heart,” McCaffrey wrote on social media after the trade. If the 49ers win it all, McCaffrey, who was a first-team All-Pro in 2019 when he had 1,387 rushing yards and 1,005 receiving yard, will leave his heart in San Francisco. By going all-in for him, the 49ers are doing their best to copy the Rams and make that happen.