Why 2024 Might Mark Christian McCaffrey’s Last Season with the 49ers

Since acquiring Christian McCaffrey in 2022, the 49ers’ offensive strategy has heavily relied on him. During last season’s playoffs, he emerged as both the primary rusher and receiver for the team. Despite possessing a formidable array of offensive weapons, the team’s focus seemed to narrow down to the Christian McCaffrey Show, a narrative that came to an abrupt end in the Super Bowl.

Against the Chiefs, McCaffrey’s vulnerabilities were exposed to some extent. It became evident that he might not be the most dominant ball carrier in the NFL, managing just 3.6 yards per carry and committing a fumble. While he did contribute with eight receptions for 80 yards and a touchdown, the 49ers’ inefficiency on third down, going 3 for 12, significantly contributed to their Super Bowl loss.

In terms of pure rushing ability, there are running backs like Derrick Henry and Raheem Mostert who arguably outshine McCaffrey. However, when it comes to receiving, McCaffrey stands out as the best among running backs. Despite this, his impact on crucial third-down plays remains limited, where typically receivers shine.

In the 2023 season, McCaffrey’s performance on third downs was lackluster, with only 10 receptions, of which merely five resulted in first downs. This placed him as the fifth option for the 49ers after Brandon Aiyuk, George Kittle, Deebo Samuel, and Jauan Jennings.

To stand a chance against the Chiefs in future Super Bowls, the 49ers must improve their performance on third down, an area where McCaffrey doesn’t seem to provide substantial assistance. Consequently, when the 49ers extend Brock Purdy’s contract next season, it wouldn’t be surprising if they also consider trading McCaffrey, thereby freeing up nearly $8 million in cap space.

The 49ers no longer require their offensive strategy to center around a running back like McCaffrey.

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