Christian McCaffrey essentially got the Todd Gurley treatment

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

The Carolina Panthers are making Christian McCaffrey the highest paid running back in NFL history. It seems a lot like what happened to Todd Gurley before.

Christian McCaffrey isn’t leaving the Carolinas anytime soon.

The Carolina Panthers have agreed to a massive four-year extension with their All-Pro running back. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, it is worth $16 million annually. This means McCaffrey will be the highest paid running back in the history of the NFL. He’s clearly part of the Panthers’ long-term future, but haven’t we seen something like this before with one Todd Gurley?

Just like McCaffrey, Gurley was paid handsomely by his former employer in the Los Angeles Rams after his third NFL season. Gurley was a top-10 pick out of his Power 5 school in his draft. He was a two-time Pro Bowler and the best running back in the league when he got a huge bump in pay before the 2018 NFL season. McCaffrey is a top-tier running back entering year four for him.

Though the Rams made it all the way to Super Bowl 53 in 2018, Gurley regressed down the stretch for Los Angeles. He was rarely used in the latter postseason games in favor of C.J. Anderson. Los Angeles lost Super Bowl 53 to the New England Patriots and then missed out on the NFC playoffs the following year. 2019 was Gurley’s last season as a Ram.

Gurley was cut before the start of free agency a few weeks ago, only to sign with the Atlanta Falcons within 24 hours after being released. He agreed to a one-year, prove-it deal with the Falcons, having an opportunity to play his sixth NFL season in the same state where he once starred on the college gridiron.

Is McCaffrey doomed to follow the same path as Carolina in a few years?

While it’s never advantageous to pay a running back big money, especially well before you need to, McCaffrey’s game could translate well into the latter years of this extension. He doesn’t have the injury history of Gurley and is arguably the best receiving back in football.

Gurley may rebound in Atlanta, but the Panthers have a better shot at recouping their investment than the Rams did.

Though the Panthers could have waited until after the 2021 NFL season to pay McCaffrey big money, as he had a fourth year remaining on his rookie deal, plus a fifth-year option, Carolina may be getting ahead of the market regarding other top running backs. Players like Derrick Henry of the Tennessee Titans and Dalvin Cook of the Minnesota Vikings will break the bank here soon.

This deal between the Panthers and McCaffrey makes sense for both parties. The Panthers want him as part of their core in their rebuilding process, as well as preventing him from hitting free agency before spring 2024. For McCaffrey, he becomes the highest paid running back in football and knows he’ll be in Charlotte for at least the next four NFL seasons. Job security is cool.

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It’s a risky move for sure, as the Rams got burned by the deal they made with Gurley. We also need to keep an eye on what happens with Ezekiel Elliott in the final years of his extension with the Dallas Cowboys. Though we’ll want to be optimistic about this deal for both parties, we’ve seen these sort of deals blow up before most catastrophically.

For Carolina, they’ll keep pounding the rock with McCaffrey.