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Biggest questions and what's next

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The San Francisco 49ers mostly watched NFC West division rivals the Los Angeles Rams swing the fence multiple times to try to win the Super Bowl. This approach worked for the Rams last season. The Niners believe it’s their turn, so late Thursday night they made a stunning trade to turn down Christian McCaffrey.

The Niners sent second, third and fourth round picks in 2023 and fifth round picks in 2024 to the Carolina Panthers for McCaffrey.

For the first six weeks, the 49ers struggled with injuries all over the roster and their offense didn’t play close to the level of their dominant defense.

Coach Kyle Shanahan doesn’t want a repeat of 2019, where the Niners wasted an elite defense as the offense failed to close the Super Bowl against the Kansas City Chiefs.

Simply put: San Francisco believes it’s in a championship window, and trading for McCaffrey sends that message loud and clear to the rest of the league.

How will McCaffrey fit into the 49ers’ offense?

This should be relatively seamless for McCaffrey, who has a lot of experience in an outer-zone-heavy scheme and brings the type of versatility that will allow Shanahan to mix and match himself with the team’s skill-position options. And make no mistake, while McCaffrey will be the team’s #1 pick, Shanahan will use him profusely in the passing game and cause more headaches for the defense, now with the likes of Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk who should follow him and the receivers and tight end George Kittle. — Nick Wagoner


Did the 49ers give up too much?

On paper, it seems so. But when you make a move like this, it doesn’t come at a very high price if it works. The risk is clear: McCaffrey has missed 23 games in the past two seasons and is joining a team that is constantly injured. And while the Niners have a few third-round make-up picks, they’re essentially playing the 2023 NFL draft. Adding young, cost-effective players is important for a team with such highly priced talent and plans to pay a massive amount of money to defender Nick Bosa this season. But if McCaffrey, who has a contract until 2025, is healthy and on the field, he’s giving the 49ers one of the best talent positions in the league, and losing more than one Day 2 pick won’t hurt. all. — wagon


Would adding McCaffrey make the 49ers top in a tight NFC West?

It should be, but that comes with an important caveat as to whether the Niners and McCaffrey will (and stay) relatively healthy. No team has exploded more than the Niners in the first six weeks, and while many of these players are expected to return, there are no guarantees when it comes to health. If their injury chances turn good, the Niners, already 2-0 in the division, have the best roster in the Western NFC and should be able to not only win the division but also make another deep post-season run. — wagon


After firing their coach and getting rid of McCaffrey and Anderson, is this a complete remake for the Panthers?

The Panthers may not be able to call it a full remake as the defense is in good shape for next season. Defensive tackle is the only starter not contracted by Matt Ioannidis. But just when you thought the Panthers would have a new coaching staff, it’s a complete remake as Matt Rhule has already been fired; a new quarterback, because the answer isn’t Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold; and a new face of the franchise since McCaffrey left.

On top of that, the receiving room is a mess. DJ Moore is the only legitimate threat Robbie Anderson was traded to the Arizona Cardinals. And none of Carolina’s hard sides are legitimate weapons. Not to mention that the offensive line rank near the bottom of the league in pass win and run win rate. One could argue that Ikem Ekwonu, the first-round pick of 2022, has had increasing pains in the left hit so far. It may be more suitable on the right wing or at the defender. So call it whatever you want, but it’s a rebuild. — David Newton


How does that set up interim coach Steve Wilks?

Wilks never had a fair bit of concussion in his one season (2018) as head coach of the Arizona Cardinals because he lacked the ability to compete and coached with a mostly inherited squad. Now she has the same situation as Carolina. And now he’s losing his most valuable offensive power. McCaffrey was his fault, making up 75% of the team’s yardage in Sunday’s 24-10 loss to the Los Angeles Rams. Wilks should replace him with sophomore Chuba Hubbard and journeyman D’Onta Foreman.

Offense is currently rated as total yards and third-down percentage in the NFL, and former XFL quarterback PJ Walker kicks off his second game against Tampa Bay on Sunday, with Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold recovering from ankle injuries. Owner David Tepper said Wilks would be considered for a full-time job if he did exceptional work the rest of this year. Instead, it seems poised to fail once again. This sounds like a full tank to build for the future. — Newton


What are the contractual and down payment effects of the agreement?

McCaffrey is a one-year lease on a cheap contract for San Francisco at a salary of $1,035 million thanks to Carolina’s off-season contract restructuring. Next year, things get even more complicated as McCaffrey owes $11.8 million. But the 49ers aren’t inheriting McCaffrey’s signature premium rate that cuts his 2023 cap of $19.5 million by a few million. These are all manageable but still steep for a comeback. — Jeremy Fowler


What other teams participated in the talks?

A few contestants at least made the call, but midweek talks were slow to evolve. Despite the hype about their relevance, I’ve never had the feeling that Buffalo Bonds have it all. The teams I spoke to believed the Rams and Denver Broncos were involved to some extent, but didn’t want to hit the price point the 49ers were paying.

The Panthers have also received numerous trade talks from wide receiver DJ Moore, who are other top quarterbacks, according to sources, but the team sees Moore as a key piece to the roster in the long run. — Fowler

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