Assessing McCaffrey’s market value ahead of contract talks
What will McCaffrey command?
There is no doubt that Christian McCaffrey is worthy of being the highest-paid running back in the NFL. He has three seasons of exceptional play under his belt and the Carolina Panthers will need to keep him around long-term to stand the best possible chance of turning the franchise around.
Ezekiel Elliott is the league’s biggest earner at the position after signing a $90 million contract with $50 million guaranteed in time for week one after holding out for a new deal during training camp. Le’Veon Bell ($13.1 million) is second on the list, with David Johnson, Derrick Henry, and Kenyan Drake rounding up the top five.
Two of those players are currently on the franchise tag, so their respective teams have yet to make a significant financial outlay on their future long term. McCaffrey has outplayed all the top stars and any new deal is likely to set the market going forward.
Spotrac expects the 23-year-old to command an $18 million annual salary on a six-year, $108 million deal. There has been a reluctance NFL-wide to pay running backs the top dollar in recent years. But the Panthers know how much McCaffrey means to the franchise and will not want to follow suit.
The decision-makers within the organization are going to need to work some salary-cap space in order to accommodate McCaffrey’s new deal. But the sacrifice will undoubtedly be worth it.