The Panthers are off to a sluggish begin, and Baker Mayfield ranks final (by a substantial margin) in QBR exiting Week 4. Rumors of Matt Rhule‘s Carolina exit continue to swirl.

Christian McCaffrey‘s name is now coming up in trade rumors again. The former All-Pro running back should be monitored ahead of the trade deadline, according to various NFL executives, via the Washington Post’s Jason La Canfora. McCaffrey stays hooked up to the four-year, $64M extension he signed in 2020. Nearly two-and-a-half years after it was finalized, McCaffrey’s deal nonetheless tops the operating again market.

Although McCaffrey’s AAV leads the sector on the place, the Panthers restructured his contract in March. As a outcome, CMC’s 2022 base wage checks in at simply $1M. An buying crew can be on the hook for that determine, together with the remaining three years of this contract. Those would morph into nonguaranteed years for an buying crew, however the deal does embrace lofty future base salaries of $11.8M (2023 and ’24) and $12M (2025). The Panthers would tackle some useless cash this 12 months and subsequent.

Potentially searching for so as to add draft capital for his or her post-Rhule interval, the Panthers might be open to taking over a few of McCaffrey’s cash. Two GMs knowledgeable La Canfora the Panthers would seemingly be ready to tackle some wage to maneuver McCaffrey “and others” to stockpile future property. It can be attention-grabbing if the Panthers would eat any a part of McCaffrey’s 2023 wage to maneuver him. As of now, the Panthers can be hit with $7.6M in useless cash by buying and selling McCaffrey earlier than the Nov. 1 deadline.

Carolina being keen to choose up a few of CMC’s future wage would stand to make him a extra beneficial commodity, and groups have known as on the sixth-year again earlier than. Rhule known as McCaffrey to inform him he was not part of the Panthers’ Deshaun Watson commerce talks earlier than final 12 months’s deadline, however the crew listened as CMC commerce curiosity came in this year. The Panthers wanted a first-round pick and a cap-friendly player for McCaffrey in March; that will be a tricky ask given the ex-Stanford famous person’s harm historical past. But if the Panthers proceed to wrestle, McCaffrey’s identify might proceed to flow into.

Rhule approved the record-setting cost to McCaffrey, a Dave Gettleman-era draftee. Owner David Tepper was not in place when the Panthers chosen McCaffrey eighth general, however he clearly greenlit the extension. McCaffrey, 26, has battled in depth harm points within the years since. After a number of maladies led to the second-generation NFLer enjoying in simply 10 video games between the 2020 and ’21 seasons, nevertheless, he has performed in every of Carolina’s 4 contests this 12 months. McCaffrey has two 100-yard speeding video games so far this season, and after he missed practices due to a quadriceps injury final week, the dual-threat again caught 9 passes for 81 yards and a landing in Carolina’s Week 4 loss.

Although David Johnson was a part of a commerce that despatched DeAndre Hopkins to Arizona, operating again commerce hauls don’t usually produce a lot. The solely again to be traded for even a third-round choose over the previous eight years was Duke Johnson, who fetched a third-rounder in going from the Browns to the Texans in 2019. In-season Dolphins offers sending away Jay Ajayi and Kenyan Drake respectively produced fourth- and fifth-round compensation. Then once more, backs of McCaffrey’s caliber aren’t available. While a first-round choose alongside the traces of the value the Colts paid the Browns for Trent Richardson in the course of the 2013 season can be troublesome to ascertain, McCaffrey would nonetheless generate appreciable curiosity — if he can stay wholesome.

Of course, Rhule preventing to maintain his job would seemingly put CMC commerce talks on maintain. It can be fairly odd if the Panthers dealt one in every of their finest gamers with their coach on maybe the NFL’s hottest seat. Then once more, La Canfora provides some throughout the group are sensing a sport of rooster between Rhule and Tepper.

Rhule signed a monster contract in 2020 (seven years, $62M), which can depart Tepper on the hook for a uncommon sum if he fires his third-year HC. Rhule, 47, will even be a candidate for high-profile school vacancies, given his success crafting turnarounds at Temple and Baylor. Rhule being axed earlier than the commerce deadline would make a McCaffrey commerce extra logical. Going into Week 5 — towards a No. 1-ranked 49ers protection — the Panthers’ Rhule-Mayfield-McCaffrey setup remains intact.

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