McCaffrey’s record-setting contract, given to him after only three NFL seasons, represents one of the smartest moves that the Panthers have made under new owner David Tepper. McCaffrey would not have shown up for anything without a new deal, and the Panthers have avoided that complication in coach Matt Rhule’s first season by paying him.
McCaffrey likely wouldn’t have participated in the virtual offseason program, but per a source with knowledge of the situation it never got to the point where McCaffrey had to make a decision. The Panthers stepped up and got the deal done, before it ever became acrimonious.
It was smart for the Panthers to do it; McCaffrey’s agent, Joel Segal, engineered the eventual Khalil Mack trade after months of ugliness in Oakland and, more recently Segal quietly got DeForest Buckner a trade from San Francisco to Indianapolis. The Panthers avoided anything like that by getting the deal done.
The question now becomes whether they’ll regret it. There’s no specific reason to believe that they will as it relates to McCaffrey’s abilities, but most major second contracts given to tailbacks in recent years have been followed by the players having less-than-stellar performances.
For McCaffrey, it won’t be easy to maintain his current level. He became in 2019 only the third player to generate 1,000 yards rushing and 1,000 yards receiving in the same season. But, still, if they’re going to pay quarterback Teddy Bridgewater $21 million per year over the next three to play quarterback, McCaffrey at $17 million is in comparison a bargain, even if he doesn’t generate back-to-back 1,000/1,000 years.