All-in CMC trade gives 49ers something special now, in future


Four years ago, 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan had big plans for a running back named Jerick McKinnon.

Shanahan was ready to build a lot of his offense in 2018 around McKinnon, whom the 49ers signed an unrestricted free agent that offseason.

McKinnon was a reasonably good running back but stood out as a good route-runner out of the backfield. But Shanahan’s plan for McKinnon never was realized due to injuries that wiped out his first two seasons with the club.

Now, McKinnon is a member of the Kansas City Chiefs, the 49ers’ opponent on Sunday at Levi’s Stadium.

On Thursday, the 49ers closed the deal with the Carolina Panthers for Christian McCaffrey, a unique running back who is equally adept at creating big plays as a runner and a pass catcher.

There is a chance McCaffrey will be available to make his 49ers debut three days after he goes to work just 13 miles from where he played his college football at Stanford.

The 49ers’ offense needed something special.

And, now, the 49ers have a special running back.

Just this week, Shanahan spoke about where he sees the 49ers among the elite teams in the NFL.

“I think we're right there with everyone else,” he said. “I think most of this league is pretty close to the same spot. There's a couple teams that are ahead of everyone and there's a couple teams behind everyone.

“I believe we have just as good a chance as anyone in this league though.”

The 49ers’ chances got a lot better with the deal to acquire McCaffrey, as long as he can remain healthy and productive.

McCaffrey is one of just three players in NFL history who have registered 1,000-1,000 seasons. Former 49ers running back Roger Craig was the first to do it. Then, along came Marshall Faulk.

And in 2019, McCaffrey did it, when he rushed for 1,387 yards and caught 116 passes for 1,006 yards.

McCaffrey brings an element to the 49ers that the club has been lacking since Shanahan’s arrival in 2017.

The running game has never been much of a problem for the 49ers.

They have found plenty of success on the ground with a revolving door in the backfield. In Shanahan’s first five seasons, the 49ers have featured five different leading rushers: Carlos Hyde, Matt Breida, Raheem Mostert, Jeff Wilson and Elijah Mitchell.

McCaffrey is clearly the best of the bunch, and they had to pay a stiff price to beat the competition in order to pry him away from the Carolina Panthers.

The 49ers’ offense needed a boost after ranking 19th in the NFL through six games with just 20.3 points per game.

McCaffrey’s presence should provide Jimmy Garoppolo with a reliable option in the passing game to exploit matchups. Garoppolo’s quick release and accurate underneath passing ability is a nice fit for McCaffrey’s skillset.

The 49ers gave up second-, third-, fourth-round picks in 2023, and fifth-round pick in 2024, in order to land McCaffrey.

They were willing to pay such a steep price because McCaffrey is not a rental. The 49ers have him under contract through the 2025 season.

RELATED: Kittle, Lance react to 49ers' trade for McCaffrey

His contract this season is minimal. Over the next three seasons, he is scheduled to earn non-guaranteed pay of $12 million, $12 million and $12.2 million.

General manager John Lynch pulled off an all-in move for this season that should continue to pay dividends in future seasons for Trey Lance, too.

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