McCaffrey’s contract: Impact on Aiyuk and review of Super Bowl-winning RBs


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Ever revisit the Panthers trading away Christian McCaffrey? It wasn’t pretty for Carolina, who turned the All-Pro into a third-round pick and sweeteners for three trade-ups. But hey, at least they had cap space for Miles Sanders.

Today’s NFL update:

  • 💵 McCaffrey’s new deal
  • 👀 Implications for Aiyuk
  • 🎙 First-round QB quotes
  • 📽 Defensive coordinators, questioned

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What Dianna’s Hearing: Christian McCaffrey gets his wish

As we’ve mentioned, Christian McCaffrey wasn’t attending voluntary OTAs due to his desire for a new deal, which was known internally.

The 49ers made sure they kept their guy — who led the NFL in yards from scrimmage last year with 2,023 — happy. Yesterday, we learned McCaffrey is signing a two-year extension averaging $19 million per year. His previous $16 million average was already tops among running backs.

A new deal and a wedding this summer for McCaffrey, who turns 28 on Friday.

Back to you, Jacob.


Implications of McCaffrey’s contract

After seeing McCaffrey get paid, I looked into two things:

1. Did this open enough cap space to sign WR Brandon Aiyuk?

49ers beat reporter David Lombardi shared his answer:

“The 49ers already had enough, since a new deal for Aiyuk would almost certainly be backloaded using the same mechanisms that San Francisco has used for other big contracts like McCaffrey’s.

“They’re in the mode of handing out bonuses that, by NFL rule, hit in the cap over five-year prorations. So an Aiyuk deal could actually lower his 2024 cap hit from $14.1 million to about $8 million, similar to how McCaffrey’s 2024 hit was just reduced by about $7 million.

The bigger question is long-term space. That’s largely dependent on the size of the NFL salary cap — the 49ers are betting that it’ll keep growing — and Brock Purdy’s potential new contract.”

In April, David took an in-depth look at a potential Aiyuk deal, noting that fully guaranteed money — which David estimates at $52.3 million — will be important in any extension. After this week, when Justin Jefferson got nearly $89 million fully guaranteed, expect this to be an important negotiating point for Aiyuk’s camp.

According to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, Aiyuk’s target was to match or exceed $28 million per year. Until Aiyuk sees that, expect him to continue to skip mandatory minicamp, which has given first-round pick Ricky Pearsall invaluable reps. Pearsall is taking advantage of the opportunity.

2. Did the 49ers overpay, given the running back market?

These days, one thing is certain: You don’t need an elite running back to win a Super Bowl. Over the past 10 seasons, the top running backs on Super Bowl-winning teams have averaged around $1.3 million in per-year salary. Look at these names and their APY:

  • 2023: Isiah Pacheco, $934k
  • 2022: Pacheco, $934k
  • 2021: Darrell Henderson, $1.05M
  • 2020: Leonard Fournette, $2M
  • 2019: Damien Williams, $2.5M
  • 2018: James White, $4M
  • 2017: LeGarrette Blount, $1.25M
  • 2016: White, 654K
  • 2015: C.J. Anderson, $500K
  • 2014: Blount, $856K

But if any running back is worth paying, it’s McCaffrey. Here’s David again, who I asked if San Fran overpaid:

“No, they didn’t overpay. McCaffrey was already due the $24 million that the 49ers guaranteed. In doing so, they earned more flexibility with how to distribute that money against the cap and they pushed most of it to the future, when the cap is expected to be greater. Think of it as a zero-interest loan.

“The new, non-guaranteed money in this deal shouldn’t be a concern. The 49ers won’t have to pay it if McCaffrey’s performance craters. But if he continues delivering at a Hall of Fame level, San Francisco now has two more years of team control here — which can only benefit them.

“Remember, McCaffrey’s impact is far, far greater than that of the ordinary running back. He impacts the pass game as much as some top receivers do — and at a fraction of the cost, even after this pay raise.”

After acquiring him in 2022, the 49ers averaged nine more points per game. They’ve been to both NFC Championship Games since. In 2023, he was the focal point of an offense that ranked first in nearly every metric.

While McCaffrey’s new $19 million APY is nearly double the combined value of those past 10 Super Bowl-winning running backs (!!), it won’t matter if the 49ers win their first Super Bowl since 1995. “I know we have a window this year,” said the RB.  “That’s all I know.”


Spring Sights and Sounds in the NFL: 2024’s First-Round QBs

Here’s what they are saying about this year’s first-round quarterbacks at OTAs and minicamps (keeping in mind that it is still June).

Chicago: When Matt Eberflus was asked about Keenan Allen’s history with talented quarterbacks, the Bears head coach grouped Caleb Williams with Philip Rivers and Justin Herbert. Williams strung together an impressive set of practices — in a recent seven-on-seven period, he went 13-of-15 — and is focusing on his cadence.

Washington: Jayden Daniels hit a top speed of 21.8 miles per hour last season (faster than Tyreek Hill’s top speed in 2023). While he hasn’t done much scrambling so far, Daniels has looked the part in the pocket, going 12-for-12 on throws in 7 on 7 drills in his first practice. Veteran TE Zach Ertz: “Right off the bat, you can tell he’s an extremely talented player. It kind of jumps out at you when you’re on the field with him. The arm talent is there. But also, he really, really cares about this thing. He wants to be as good as he can possibly be. He’s working his butt off.”

New England: Drake Maye, after Patriots OC Alex Van Pelt called Jacoby Brissett the starter on Tuesday: “Jacoby is getting the first (reps) and then from there, playing it by ear.” Maye looks to have passed Bailey Zappe as the No. 2 QB, at least. But “it didn’t go great as he threw two interceptions during a practice focused on red-zone work … that was the case for all of the Patriots quarterbacks on a day the defense dominated,” noted Chad Graff.

Atlanta: Michael Penix Jr. is “a freakin’ baller,” said WR Drake London after his first week of practices with Penix. “That’s why we took him at that spot. We’re just happy that he’s here. He’s slinging it.” Penix has been texting Michael Vick, another left-handed quarterback who was drafted by Atlanta (and also with a 36-year-old entrenched starter, Chris Chandler).

Minnesota: J.J. McCarthy will benefit from QB coach Josh McCown’s learnings after holding the same position in Carolina: “There’s still a learning curve to this league,” McCown said. “So, it’s important to give yourself space to understand that and not put pressure or a level of expectations on them that are sometimes unattainable in year No. 1.” Still, “McCarthy’s mechanics look clean,” noted Alec Lewis in his Vikings mailbag.

Denver: Bo Nix shares mental similarities with Drew Brees, according to Denver HC Sean Payton. While the Broncos continue to rotate quarterbacks with the first-team offense, “Nix has impressed the coaching staff early” with “a consistent and quick pace [and] quick and decisive checks,” per beat reporter Nick Kosmider. “He’s farther along than most” rookies, Payton added.


Around the NFL

As Colts minicamp gets underway, James Boyd highlights second-round WR Adonai Mitchell’s growing chemistry with QB Anthony Richardson. “They connected on two TDs in the red zone during seven-on-seven drills Tuesday.”

There should be a simple resolution for DT Cam Heyward’s contract, writes Mark Kaboly. After the 35-year-old arrived at Pittsburgh’s complex yesterday for the first time this offseason, Mark notes that “the Steelers have to acknowledge that one injury-riddled season shouldn’t automatically signal the end of Heyward’s effectiveness.”

Bobby Wagner is helping Washington create a winning culture, something they’ve lacked for years.

Missing mandatory minicamp, per the CBA, will subject Cowboys WR CeeDee Lamb to fines of $16,953 for missing Day 1, $33,908 for Day 2 and $50,855 for Day 3.


Jacob’s Picks

📕 Defensive play-callers: While there are 17 new defensive coordinators this season, Mike Jones has one pressing question for each new defensive play-caller. (The Athletic)

🎙 CJ Stroud and Tank Dell are busy. The Texans young stars joined the Million Dollaz Worth of Game show to talk Dell’s shooting, their 2024 expectations and more. (YouTube)

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