The new contract between the Panthers and running back Christian McCaffrey has become official. And the deal does indeed make McCaffrey the highest-paid running back in football.
The details of the deal, per a source with knowledge of it, follow. Following that, some analysis.
1. Signing bonus: $21.5 million.
2. 2020 base salary: $825,000, fully guaranteed.
3. 2021 base salary: $8.0375 million, $7.7375 million of which is fully guaranteed at signing.
4. 2022 base salary: $8.4 million, $8.1 million of which is guaranteed for injury at signing. The $8.1 million becomes fully guaranteed on the fifth day of the 2021 (not 2022) league year.
5. 2023 base salary: $11.8 million, $1 million of which is guaranteed for injury at signing.
6. 2024 base salary: $11.8 million.
7. 2025 base salary: $12 million.
8. 2021-25 workout bonuses: $200,000 per year.
The four-year extension has $30.0625 million fully guaranteed at signing. Another $8.1 million becomes fully guaranteed next March, making the practical guarantee $38.1625 million. (The Panthers could avoid owing him $38.1625 million only by cutting McCaffrey after one year, and paying him $30.625 million, with offset language subject to the $7.7375 million guarantee in 2021.)
The contract has a new-money average of $16.01853 million for the new four years. The full contract has a value of 75.36 million over six years, based on the $11.299 million McCaffrey was due to earn in 2020 and 2021.
The full guarantee at signing ($30 million and change) represents nearly 40 percent of the full value of the deal, which isn’t typical for tailback contracts. Instead, receivers are more likely to have a full guarantee in the range of 40 percent of the total deal.
Also, McCaffrey got his new deal after only three seasons, without a holdout or any other public ugliness. It’s a testament to Panthers owner David Tepper, who recognized that McCaffrey is a high-talent, high-integrity core player who will be part of the franchise’s nucleus for years to come. McCaffrey’s compensation packages recognizes his importance to the offense, especially as the team transitions from Cam Newton to Teddy Bridgewater at quarterback.
Since McCaffrey is still only 23 years old, he’ll have a chance at another new deal at some point before he turns 29. If he remains healthy and effective, yet another big payday could happen down the road.
With plenty of other running backs closing in on new deals, McCaffrey has set a bar that may be hard to surpass, especially if the salary cap takes a hit in 2021 based on reduced revenues in 2020.