Why Christian McCaffrey’s trade is good news for the Patriots

Less than two weeks before the NFL trade deadline, the Carolina Panthers and San Francisco 49ers made their first major trades of the season. Star running back Christian McCaffrey was sent to the 49ers, with Carolina receiving 2023 second-, third- and fourth-round draft picks and a 2024 fifth-round pick.

The capital San Francisco gave up to acquire a talented but often injured running back can be questioned. What can’t is that the move is good for a team that isn’t even involved in it: the New England Patriots.

The Patriots, as previously mentioned, own two of the Panthers’ 2023 draft picks: a third-rounder acquired in a draft-day trade this offseason, and a sixth-rounder that came in compensation for cornerback Stephon Gilmore last October. The McCaffrey trade isn’t directly linked to any of these picks, but it could help them get early rather than late in their respective rounds

After all, McCaffrey was arguably the best offensive player on Carolina’s roster. A legitimate threat as a runner and receiver, leading the team in both categories, he accounted for 52.2 percent of the Panthers’ offensive touches in six games (118 of 226), 39.8 percent of their mileage (670 of 1,683). and 42.9 percent of touchdowns scored that side of the ball (3 out of 7).

Those numbers get even more skewed when you consider his contributions as a ball carrier: He was responsible for 70.2 percent of Carolina’s non-kneeling rushing attempts (85 of 121) and 72.1 percent (393 of 545) of his yards on the floor.

The Panthers’ offense has literally gone through the 26-year-old so far this season. Removing him from the equation will require some major adjustments by a coaching staff led by an interim head coach.

Finally, earlier this year, Carolina fired Matt Rhule as a result of his 11-27 record since 2020. The team also traded wide receiver Robbie Anderson — the team’s No. 3 in goals and receptions and No. 2 in receiving yards behind McCaffrey — to the Arizona Cardinals earlier this week.

The Panthers are facing a major rebuild, trading their fortunes to improve their salary cap and draft capital prospects. That, in turn, could lead to some disappointing results in 2022 — a process that would greatly benefit the Patriots.

After all, every additional game lost will improve New England’s draft record next year. The McCaffrey trade could help quite a bit with that.

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