49ers acquiring Christian McCaffrey in trade with Panthers – USA TODAY

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The San Francisco 49ers are making a massive move ahead of the NFL’s Nov. 1 trade deadline. 

The Niners are acquiring star running back Christian McCaffrey in a trade with the Carolina Panthers, pending a physical, the team announced Thursday evening.

The Panthers are receiving second, third and fourth round picks in 2023, as well as a fifth rounder in 2024 in exchange for McCaffrey.

McCaffrey, the eighth overall pick in the 2017 NFL draft out of Stanford, returns to the Bay Area after spending the first five-plus seasons of his career in Carolina. He earned All-Pro and Pro Bowl nods in 2019 after recording 2,392 yards from scrimmage, third-most in NFL history.

This year, the dual-threat back, who’s battled injuries the prior two seasons, has rushed for 393 yards (4.6 average) and has 277 receiving yards.

What this trade means for the 49ers

Kyle Shanahan has another explosive weapon for his offense – when healthy. That’s the key to this trade for San Francisco. If McCaffrey is healthy and contributes like we know he can, the 49ers are a favorite to make another deep postseason run like they did last season. It could even mean getting past the NFC title game and reaching the Super Bowl for the second time in four seasons. The move alters the balance in the NFC, where the Philadelphia Eagles are undefeated while teams like the defending champion Los Angeles Rams, 2020 champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Green Bay Packers are struggling this season.

What it means for the Panthers

It’s rebuilding time in Carolina. Coach Matt Rhule was fired in the midst of his third season, failing to get the Panthers relevant with a revolving door at quarterback featuring former top-three draft picks like Baker Mayfield, Cam Newton and Sam Darnold. Firing Rhule earlier this month got the rebuild wheel turning. Trading Robbie Anderson to the Cardinals was affirmation. And dealing away McCaffrey for the bounty of picks in return is putting the rebuilding plan fully in motion for Carolina. The Panthers will be a favorite to land the No. 1 pick in the 2023 NFL draft next April.

Keeping it in the family 

McCaffrey’s father, Ed, played for the Denver Broncos, as did 49ers general manager John Lynch. Both Ed McCaffrey and Lynch played under coach Mike Shanahan, father of 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan. 

Looking to the 2023 NFL draft

Heading into Week 7, the Panthers have the NFL’s worst record at 1-5. Now, their job is to stay at the top of the draft order.

As it stands, they’ll have eight picks in the 2023 NFL draft, including two picks in the second and fourth rounds. That’s plenty of trade assets if Carolina needs to make a move into the No. 1 spot, if they don’t finish last. 

As for the 49ers, they’re going all in on the present. They sent three 2023 draft picks – second-, third- and fourth-round picks – to Carolina.

And they already traded their 2023 first-round pick, which they moved to draft injured quarterback Trey Lance with the No. 3 pick in 2021.

San Francisco will have a fifth-round pick and two seventh-round picks in the next draft. They also sent a 2024 fifth-round pick to Carolina in the McCaffrey deal.