Teams to watch in Christian McCaffrey trade talks include Bills, 49ers and other contenders

Despite a litany of media reports suggesting otherwise, the Christian McCaffrey the trade talks are in the early stages of a junior high prom: more staring and waiting than actual dancing.

Right now that’s the right framing of talks involving the All-Pro Carolina Panthers come back.

The emphasis is on “now” because things can change quickly. But any potential deal has a long way to go before the league’s November 1 trade deadline. At the moment, there are a handful of interested teams. None made a concrete offer. This includes the Buffalo Tickets, who despite reports of a lawsuit, are also taking a wait-and-see attitude. We’ll look at how a deal can be done — and who might be at stake — but first, let’s unpack the context surrounding McCaffrey and the current interest.

How the Bills Figure in Potential Trade Negotiations

Last week began with the firing of Panthers head coach Matt Rhule on Monday, followed by reports of a duel over whether or not the Bills and Panthers had talks over McCaffrey. Both have denied being engaged in talks. A more relevant question was whether the Panthers and Bills had any conversations about running back. The answer is yes.

During the offseason, the Bills checked on McCaffrey’s availability. The investigation ultimately came to nothing. There hasn’t been a trade offer or even a spitting discussion about which assets should be on the table. And since that trade ended in the offseason, the Bills and Panthers haven’t discussed McCaffrey’s trade availability beyond one simple parameter: If Carolina decides to trade him, Buffalo would appreciate a courtesy call so he can decide if he wants to be involved.

The Carolina Panthers are open to trade offers for star guard Christian McCaffrey, but there’s no guarantee a deal will happen. (Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

As of this week, that’s the same position of a handful of other teams who called the Panthers following the report of interest from Buffalo. Much like the Bills, other teams would like to be involved if McCaffrey is made available. They didn’t make any offers either.

It’s a pretty natural posture for NFL teams when there are two weeks of trail before the trade deadline and no one wants to open talks by bidding against themselves. Once the deadline draws near and the luxury of waiting disappears, that could change, especially if it becomes clearer what Carolina wants for McCaffrey.

Several first-round picks aren’t realistic for the Panthers

So who is interested and what are the Panthers looking for?

Teams interested in McCaffrey are trying to hide at this point, but they fit a similar pattern. Look for well-built franchises that are poised to challenge for a Super Bowl this season, then circle those that appear to be on the back foot to significantly improve their title shots.

Invoices adapt. Then do it San Francisco 49ersalong with a small handful of others.

Ultimately, the question is going to come down to the assets offered for McCaffrey. In terms of tradable commodities, the Panthers approach it more as a pocket roster than someone actively buying from the trading market. If the teams want to make an offer, Carolina will accept it. They will also do so knowing two things about his value: he is a player who could be very useful if the team decides to make a run against one of the elite quarterbacks in the 2023 draft; and he’s an attractive player to keep in the head coach’s fold next season.

If it’s interim head coach Steve Wilks, he already knows McCaffrey who represents the best player he currently has on offense. If this is another coach the Panthers are trying to hire, McCaffrey remains a player who can be considered a selling point. Not to mention the reality that his contract is starting to get much easier to offload if needed after the 2023 season.

The next two weeks should refine what it will ultimately take to get McCaffrey in a deal, but it’s safe to say that early proclamations of “multiple” first-round picks are inaccurate. Although it may be the hopes and dreams of team owner David Tepper — who will be the one to make the final decision — Carolina doesn’t get that kind of package for McCaffrey.

For now, it’s best to think about McCaffrey’s value in terms of how his trade could set up Carolina for a future quarterback pursuit. Solving the quarterback spot is the organization’s No. 1 priority. If a team offers a set of trade assets that brings the Panthers closer to being in play for the top two quarterbacks in the draft, then that will likely be considered a realistic offer.

Anything less is going to leave the Panthers where they are now: stuck at the junior prom and staring at the dance partners, with no one making the move that matters.

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