The firing of Matt Rhule has, as expected, led to an increase in trade chatter with respect to the Panthers. Especially as many of their other young cornerstone pieces are unlikely to be moved, attention continues to center on running back Christian McCaffrey.
Carolina has fielded multiple offers in recent days and weeks on the 26-year-old, but few specifics have been reported to date regarding potential suitors. On that point, CBS Sports’ Jonathan Jones names the Broncos, 49ers, Rams and Bills as clubs which have so far displayed “varying degrees of interest” in making a trade.
Given their respective situations, each squad on that list could represent a logical destination for McCaffrey. The Colorado native would provide Denver with a short-term replacement for lead back Javonte Williams. His ACL tear di lui will keep him sidelined until at least the start of next season, leaving veteran Melvin Gordon to handle No. 1 duties. The latter will once again hit free agency this spring, though Williams still has two years remaining on his rookie contract, which would make a McCaffrey acquisition redundant beyond the immediate future. That timeline could be the team’s only concerns at the moment, though, given their unexpected struggles offensively.
The 49ers are likewise dealing with the absence of their No. 1 back. Elijah Mitchell is recovering from an MCL sprain, but unlike Williams he will return in 2022. With a trio consisting of veterans Jeff Wilson Jr., Tevin Coleman and rookie Tyrion Davis-Price, the team ranks in the top 10 in the league in rushing yards this season (139 per game). That figure, heavily influenced by the rushing prowess of Deebo Samuelcould steer Kyle Shanahan and Co. away from a pricey acquisition.
The Rams, on the other hand, have shown a willingness to make eye-catching moves in the past and face question marks in their league-worst run game. Cam Akers will miss tomorrow’s contest for vaguely-defined reasons, and has been underwhelming in his return from an Achilles tear this season. Regardless of his intermediate- and long-term future in Los Angeles, Jourdan Rodrigue of The Athletic tweets that the team has a number of other positions to consider augmenting in advance of the trade deadline, including the offensive line. McCaffrey, a Stanford alum, will nevertheless likely remain on their radar.
Buffalo has been mentioned previously as a fit for McCaffrey; the Bills reportedly inquired about trading for him this summer. Quarterback Josh Allen remains the focal point of their offense both in the air and on the ground, though a sizeable investment was made at the RB position this April with the second-round selection of James Cook. He, along with Devin Singletary and Zack Moss, have operated as a committee in support of Allen’s production. Complicating any Bills trade offers is the fact that they currently have just $ 1.2MM in cap space – the third-lowest figure in the league, and much less than the three aforementioned teams.
How Carolina handles McCaffrey (and the level of pursuit showed by these four clubs) will be a key storyline in the build-up to November’s trade deadline.