Okay, so should the Panthers *really* trade Christian McCaffrey?

Christian McCaffrey, Carolina Panthers. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
Christian McCaffrey, Carolina Panthers. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images) /

The Carolina Panthers might be terrible next year, so should they look to trade their best player Christian McCaffrey to load up on future draft picks?

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How much of a rebuild are the Carolina Panthers willing to undergo?

It’s a new era in Panthers football. Owner David Tepper made his mark already on the organization by firing long-time head coach Ron Rivera. The venture capitalist and former minority owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers opted to pay out the wazoo to pry former Baylor Bears head coach Matt Rhule out of Waco. Rhule did tremendous things at Baylor and with the Temple Owls before that.

Given Rhule’s track record as an elite program builder, 2019 will not be a good year for the Panthers, far from it actually. Rhule won two games during his first year at Temple and only a single game at Baylor before turning those two programs around. For that reason, should the Panthers look to sell high on their best player in running back Christian McCaffrey?

This all really comes down to what Rhule thinks about the injured starting quarterback he inherited in Cam Newton. Rhule has heaped praise on Newton in his recovery from a Lisfranc injury, but it will be months before Newton is ready to play in a meaningful football game. The 2015 NFL MVP missed all but two games last season with the injury in his foot.

Should Rhule want to roll with Newton in 2020 and beyond, then he would be foolish to trade McCaffrey on a rookie contract and still in his prime. However, if Rhule isn’t keen on Newton being his starting quarterback this fall, then he may need to seriously consider trading McCaffrey, tear this thing down to the studs and load up on future draft picks.

Keep in mind that Carolina’s best defensive player Luke Kuechly retired this offseason after eight Hall-of-Fame seasons. The Panthers also lost perennial Pro Bowl tight end Greg Olsen to the Seattle Seahawks already this offseason. McCaffrey, linebacker Shaq Thompson and cornerback James Bradberry are what’s left of a very underwhelming corps if Newton isn’t coming back.

So if Carolina were to trade McCaffrey, the Panthers should be able to command a first-round pick and then some for the All-Pro running back. Maybe McCaffrey, the No. 7 overall pick and Carolina’s 2021 first-round pick could be enough to entice the Cincinnati Bengals to part ways with the No. 1 overall pick this spring.

That way, Carolina could draft LSU Tigers quarterback Joe Burrow, who starred in new Panthers offensive coordinator Joe Brady’s offense last year. Cincinnati would have an amazing running back tandem in McCaffrey and Joe Mixon, as well as a chance to draft either Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Tua Tagovailoa or Oregon Ducks quarterback Justin Herbert in the top 10.

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Of course, Carolina doesn’t have to trade McCaffrey to the Bengals just so they can draft Burrow. They could deal him to whomever, draft a non-quarterback this year and get ready for Clemson Tigers quarterback Trevor Lawrence or Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback Justin Fields in the 2021 NFL Draft. Again, it’s all about what Rhule wants to do, but McCaffrey is a huge trade asset.