Carolina Panthers 23-year-old running back Christian McCaffrey signed a four-year, $64 million extension with the team, earning $16 million on average per season, becoming the highest-paid running back in NFL history.
After three years in the NFL, McCaffrey is averaging the seventh-most scrimmage yards per game at 113.4. That is elite company that includes players like Jim Brown and Barry Sanders.
In recent memory, running backs have become devalued and deemed as not part of a winning formula. Overpaying for skill players is tough, especially given how easy it is for a defense to key in on one player and cripple an offense.
But McCaffrey can be that exception.
He is a transcendent talent who’s pay matches the production. Last season McCaffrey rushed for 1,387 yards (fourth in the league) and had 1,005 receiving yards (28th in the league). His ability to stretch the field always keeps the opposing defense honest and guessing.
Once the Los Angeles Rams gave Todd Gurley his extension, the dual threat running back become the hottest commodity on the field, as if they were a shiny new car to be shown off. Combine his rookie contract with his new contract and McCaffrey will be under contract until he’s about to turn 30, which is when the running back shelf life starts to run empty.
The Panthers, who are now without quarterback Cam Newton, are in a process of retooling their team for the future. Without any big contracts to give out, the expensive contract for McCaffrey is worth it. They can now spend the next few years selecting young offensive and defensive talent in the draft to build around in the future.