Christian McCaffrey is heading back to the Bay Area.
The San Francisco 49ers are acquiring the dynamic dual-threat running back from the Carolina Panthers in exchange for a host of draft picks, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported late Thursday night.
In exchange for McCaffrey, the Panthers will receive a 2023 NFL Draft second-round pick, a 2023 third-rounder, a 2023 fourth-rounder and a 2024 fifth-round pick. Carolina and San Francisco subsequently announced the trade.
McCaffrey, who has already spoken with Niners head coach Kyle Shanahan and "team brass," according to Rapoport, is scheduled to travel to his new home on Friday, and if he plays Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs, which he is expected to do, he'll likely be used in a red zone package.
Since Carolina fired head coach Matt Rhule on Oct. 10, McCaffrey had drawn interest and it came down to NFC West rivals -- the Niners and Los Angeles Rams, according to Rapoport. The Panthers wanted a first-round pick, but neither team had one to give, so Carolina got what it deemed as the equivalent, Rapoport reported.
San Francisco will need to pay just $690,000 for the remainder of the season, NFL Network Insider Tom Pelissero noted. Thereafter, CMC is on the books for $12 million in 2023 and 2024, $12.2 million in 2025 and just $1 million guaranteed for injury, Pelissero added.
McCaffrey starred in college at Stanford as the Heisman Trophy runner-up in 2015, scoring 33 touchdowns in three seasons there as a runner, receiver and returner and even throwing for two TDs.
He'll also be reunited with Shanahan, who reportedly babysat McCaffrey when Shanahan's father, Mike, was the Broncos' head coach and McCaffrey's father, Ed, was a wide receiver there in the late 1990s. The elder Shanahan and McCaffrey won two Super Bowls together in Denver.
The price was steep, but the 3-3 49ers were in need of more offensive firepower. Even with Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk and (when healthy) George Kittle, San Francisco's offense ranks mostly middle of the pack in the major categories and 19th in scoring at 20.3 points per game.
McCaffrey joins a crowded backfield that's currently led by Jeff Wilson. Samuel also moonlights as a runner, and the team also expects 2021 leading rusher Elijah Mitchell -- who has been out since Week 1 with an MCL sprain -- to be back after the Week 9 bye.
But McCaffrey is more than just a runner. He has 390 receptions in 64 career games, twice topping the 100-catch mark. McCaffrey has been held back by major injuries in 2020 and 2021, missing 23 of Carolina's 33 regular-season games.
McCaffrey has been relatively healthy so far in 2022, playing the majority of the offensive snaps in all six Panthers games. He ranks 12th in the NFL in carries (85), 13th in rushing yards (393), 31st in targets (43) and 19th in receptions (33).
Meanwhile, Carolina now is in full rebuild mode -- likely heading into an offseason where finding a franchise quarterback appears essential. The 1-5 Panthers, who previously traded Robbie Anderson to the Arizona Cardinals, could be in the running for the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, but adding more draft capital was essential. The Texans, Seahawks and Lions are three other potentially QB-needy teams that currently own two first-round picks apiece in 2023.