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Should the Panthers try to trade Christian McCaffrey?

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Mike Florio and Myles Simmons dive into the Panthers' decision to fire Matt Rhule, analyzing the timeline of the situation, why transitioning to the NFL level is so challenging for college coaches and more.

With the Panthers firing coach Matt Rhule and the team now in what seems to be a full-rebuild free-fall, the team should consider trading any player for whom a solid return could be secured.

The most obvious candidate for a change of scenery is running back Christian McCaffrey.

McCaffrey’s name has come up in the past, but there never seemed to be any serious effort to move him. Now, the Panthers could (and perhaps should) consider flipping McCaffrey to a contender in exchange for future draft assets.

During a Monday press conference, owner David Tepper was asked about the possibility of trading players. He did not answer it directly, saying generally, “I think we have to figure out how to get a culture of winning.”

Finding a trade partner for McCaffrey would be a challenge. Even if the Panthers were willing to take the cap charge for money already paid to McCaffrey, someone else would have to be willing to take on the future salary obligation.

A restructuring lowered the 2022 base salary to $1.035 million. Next year, McCaffrey is due to make $11.8 million. He’s also on the books for $11.8 million in 2024, and $12 million in 2025.

What has McCaffrey done in recent years to persuade a team to assume that cash and cap burden? He missed 10 games last year and 13 in 2020. Through five games in 2022, he has 324 rushing yards and 188 receiving yards, and three total touchdowns.

The injuries aren’t his fault; it’s the nature of the position. The question is whether some other team would be willing to take on the balance of McCaffrey’s contract and devote significant trade compensation in order to get him.

There may not be a single one, not even the eff-them-picks Rams. They may just have to get through this season and then release him.