INDIANAPOLIS — Carolina Panthers general manager Scott Fitterer hated to let Christian McCaffrey go, but when trade talks started with his 49ers counterpart, John Lynch, they were fast and furious.
Fitterer spoke to NBC Sports Bay Area at the NFL Scouting Combine this week, and shared how the Week 7 blockbuster trade evolved so quickly. He also noted how he forgot to share an important detail with the All-Pro running back.
"When I called him to tell him he was being traded, he said, 'Great.' " Fitterer recounted with a smile. “He was about to get off the phone when he said, ‘Oh, where am I going?’ I said, 'It’s San Francisco.' "
With just two teams as potential destinations, Fitterer thought McCaffrey's agent had delivered the details. McCaffrey then found his way to the Bay, where he is under contract through the 2025 season.
"First of all, it wasn’t something we wanted to do," Fitterer said. "I always say, '32 teams can use Christian McCaffrey.' Part of it was contract, part of it was we talked to his agent about maybe redoing the deal. And then in the end, we’re missing a lot of draft picks, San Francisco needed someone like Christian."
It wasn't something McCaffrey expected to happen, either. McCaffrey said Fitterer actually told him he would "absolutely not" be traded. Six games into the 2022 season, though, he found himself in Santa Clara.
"It's a weird deal because there's so many emotions, and the first emotion is probably anger," McCaffrey recently said on the "Bussin’ with the Boys" podcast, via Michael Gallagher of YardBarker. “Like, you guys don’t want me anymore? That's really what it is. 'Well, they got a lot for you.' Nah, like you think you’re better off without me; that’s what it is. You're pissed off, but then you’re excited.
"There's so many emotions that get flooded at you at once. . . . I don't know if I've fully decompressed yet from the whole thing."
Before the mid-season trade, the Panthers were slated to have just four picks in the 2023 draft. They received four picks in exchange for McCaffrey — one each in the second, third and fourth rounds in 2023 and a fifth-round selection in 2024.
The 49ers, meanwhile, received a player who ignited their offense, helping them play deep into the playoffs.
McCaffrey racked up a whopping 1,509 yards from scrimmage after arriving in the Bay — 984 rushing and 525 receiving -- along with 14 total touchdowns that include one passing score.
“Rarely do you get a win-win in the NFL," Fitterer said. "We benefited, they benefited, and I think Christian is in a spot that he is really happy. I am sure he hated to leave Charlotte, we hated for him to leave, but unfortunately, it was one of those football moves that you have to make, that is the best thing for your team at the time."
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Fitterer doesn't have any jealousy or negative feelings toward McCaffrey’s success in the Bay. Fitterer was expecting it, and couldn’t be happier for the former first-round pick.
"He is one of the guys you root for because he does everything the right way," Fitterer said. "The fun part is now we have picks going into the draft and he's in a place where he is very successful."