The Panthers made Christian McCaffrey the highest paid running back of all time a few days ago, and they're already trying to justify the decision. Sure, his four-year, $64 million extension is big, but do they really need to explain why they did one day later?
Apparently the answer is yes.
Panthers head coach Matt Rhule made an appearance on WFNZ Sports Radio in Charlotte on Tuesday and had the following to say about McCaffrey:
"I don’t look at him as just a running back. We see him as a weapon. He can be a wideout, running back and returner. He’s not a player who you can pigeonhole."- Matt Rhule
All true. All valid. In fact, he forgot to mention McCaffrey can also throw the ball. I mean, he did throw a 50-yard touchdown pass in 2018. Can't forget to bring that up, coach.
The underlining theme to this statement, however, is, "We didn't overpay for a running back," which has been a hot-button topic this offseason; with the release of Todd Gurley and the reality that the most recent Super Bowl championship teams didn't feature a running back among the top five highest-paid in the NFL, the perception of the value of a running back hasn't been lower. It still feels weird that Rhule felt he had to make that statement, given McCaffrey has accounted for nearly 5,500 yards of total offense and 39 TDs in his first three years in the league (40 if you include the TD throw).
The fact is at some point in this contract, pundits are going to say the Panthers hamstrung themselves by overpaying for a running back, that McCaffrey is overpaid, and that this is another example of why you shouldn't pay a running back. It's a very Captain Hindsight way of looking at things, but it's also a pattern that's been repeated every time a running back gets a huge bag over the last decade.
Hell, The Dallas Morning News said Ezekiel Elliott is overpaid and he led the league in rushing last year.
I knew the Panthers would have to defend signing the most productive running back/receiver/returner/quarterback in the league last year to an extension at some point, but I didn't think it would come this soon. Guess that's just the life of an well-paid RB these days.