The blows keep coming for the Carolina Panthers.
Sunday’s 33-10 loss to the Dolphins put Panthers quarterback Cam Newton under the microscope, but the game’s most ominous fallout was the status of All-Pro running back Christian McCaffrey.
After sustaining an ankle injury in the loss, McCaffrey was placed on the injured reserve list and will miss the remainder of the season.
McCaffrey has just 442 rushing yards and one rushing touchdown this season, the second ankle injury he suffered in 2021.
In short, luge has been tough for the All-Pro running back since signing a four-year, $ 64 million extension in April 2020.
He has missed 18 games combined since the start of the 2020 season, scoring just eight total touchdowns in that span and not having made any 100-yard games – a far cry from the 4,357 scrum-yards and 32 total touchdowns that he has made. ‘he scored in 2018 and 2019 seasons.
McCaffrey’s injury woes continue an alarming trend of elite running backs declining production and availability after signing big contracts in recent years.
Dallas Cowboys backer Ezekiel Elliott – the second-highest-paid NFL backer behind McCaffrey – was drafted in 2016 and from 2016 to 19, he averaged 101.2 rushing yards per game on 4.6 yards per carry with 19 games of at least 100 yards rushing.
Since signing his $ 90 million six-year extension in 2019, however, Elliott has averaged just 72.8 YPG rushing 4.3 YPC. He has only crossed the 100-yard rushing mark 11 times since and is currently playing with a knee injury.
New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara signed his five-year, $ 75 million extension in 2020, but has also fallen victim to the injury bug this season, missing the last three games due to a MCL sprain. He’s averaging 3.6 YPC, his career low this season.
Minnesota Vikings All-Pro running back Dalvin Cook suffered a torn labrum and a dislocated shoulder in Sunday’s loss to the San Francisco 49ers. Cook signed a five-year, $ 63 million extension in 2020 and has already missed two games this season.
Now he is expected to miss at least three weeks due to his current shoulder injury.
And then there’s Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry, the defending NFL champion, who had been a model of consistency and clean health before this season.
In his first five seasons, Henry missed just two games, but he now plans to miss the rest of the season after undergoing surgery to repair a broken foot. He has only played eight games this year.
The Miami Dolphins defense shone with three interceptions, and Miami also had a blocked punt for a touchdown in their 33-10 win over the Panthers.
The price of playing in the semi-finals is grueling, and the price to pay turns out to be even more grueling for teams.
We’ll have to wait and see how McCaffrey’s injury affects the running back contract landscape going forward.
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