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Kawakami: Why did the 49ers decide they had to take on Christian McCaffrey?

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There are a million pieces to parse and a billion potential outcomes from the 49ers’ dramatic Thursday night trade with Carolina to get Christian McCaffrey back, and we’re all going to do that over the next few days and months, but two outcomes jump out right away:

The 49ers believe the 26-year-old McCaffrey is healthy, staying on top of his game, and will provide an immediate and sustained surge of energy to the team’s fast attack. Basically, and frankly, they believe he can help get him straight into the roster and take them to the Super Bowl (though we’ll see if he’ll be active in Sunday’s game against the Chiefs).

There is no other way that Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch will forego second-, third- and fourth-round picks in next year’s draft and a fifth-round pick in 2024. It should also be noted that there are no first elections next April. more rounded (he owed Miami to end the deal that put the 49ers in the position to pick Trey Lance), there’s no way Shanahan and Lynch should worry about the games McCaffrey missed in the previous two seasons, or that McCaffrey and Deebo doubt it. . Samuel will evolve into the deadliest all-purpose combo in the league.

They really could be the deadliest multi-role attack combination in recent history.

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Panthers trade Christian McCaffrey to 49ers

The 49ers now believe they can win the Super Bowl this February. Hell, at this point Shanahan and Lynch are probably should win the Super Bowl this February.

I wrote about the big picture mindset of this leadership tandem. There is no doubt that Shanahan and Lynch always focus on the end of the game, even when planning the smallest details. But when they think they have the right players and the right situation, they also love to roll the dice, as they did in 2019 when they were half a quarter behind from winning the Super Bowl by trading two picks for wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders. (Part of the reasoning for burning so many 2023 picks is that they have two complementary third-round picks arriving in April to lose minority coaches Robert Saleh and Mike McDaniel to head coaching jobs and manager Martin Mayhew to become general manager of the Washington team.)

As Lance, Trent Williams, Emmanuel Moseley, Arik Armstead and many more struggled with injuries in this uneven 3-3 start, the constant feeling I got from the 49ers roster was that they believed their fate was destined. playoffs. They were going to be very tough in the playoffs.

One notable weakness: a backcourt home hitter, except Deebo, is more dangerous when he’s a surprise runner, not when he’s back in every key place. The 49ers’ offense was at its best in 2019, when Raheem Mostert reached full warp speed – his 220-yard, four-goal performance against Green Bay in the January 2020 NFC Championship Game remains the most devastating offensive show of the Shanahan era.

You could argue the 49ers could use another first-class offensive lineman (or two). After Moseley’s been off the court for a year and Charvarius Ward’s last game, you can tell his depth in the corners has been severely tested and he might miss Sunday as well. You could point out that the 49ers’ depth on the defensive was lost after Armstead and Javon Kinlaw’s injuries. The 49ers believe Elijah Mitchell will return at some point and Jeff Wilson Jr. and you can say the others are ready to go.

But Shanahan always wants to control games with strong attacking and strong passing attackers, and he can’t do that unless he has a comeback who takes first defeats, breaks a big one or two every game, and also causes serious defense. You can also relieve stress by going to the passageways. This kind of RB helps the offensive line. Helps the quarterback. It helps defense. It all helps. And when McCaffrey and Mitchell have to miss a game or two, they can be either/or an RB1 combination.

It became part of the Shanahan belief system that you don’t need to burn valuable draft capital in the RB position. But as Shanahan always says, you do it for the right RB. And McCaffrey, as I wrote earlier, fits the Shanahan system perfectly.

I also believe the 49ers must have a sense that McCaffrey is fit to restructure his deal next season, from his unguaranteed $11.8 million salary. I find it hard to believe Shanahan and Lynch would forego all these picks for an 11-game (and playoffs) loan. I’ve heard for days that McCaffrey wants to come back to the Bay Area (as someone from Stanford) and to play for Shanahan, who is well known in the McCaffrey family. It’s not hard to believe that the 49ers at least have the tacit understanding that McCaffrey’s return in 2023 will be on a lower salary, perhaps with a guarantee that they can spread out over several years.

Deebo, McCaffrey, George Kittle, Trent Williams and Brandon Aiyuk … yeah, I don’t think many defensive coordinators were excited to find out what Shanahan would do with this group.

But I don’t think the 49ers went in to give up that many picks. I think they were hoping they could get into this relatively cheaply, knowing that McCaffrey wanted to join them. But clearly, there was an auction, and the other serious bidder seems likely to be the Rams. It was a race to pick as many picks as possible and the 49ers won for the first time.


The 49ers would not lose to the 49ers in a bidding war for McCaffrey. (Bob Donnan / USA Today)

This has been brewing for at least a few days. This was so ingrained in the minds of the 49ers that when I first started hearing about the possibility a few days ago and consulted a team source, the source said at first, “I expected you to ask that.”

From then on, I will say that everyone I spoke to was pretty sure McCaffrey’s place was in the 49ers. It just made so much sense. When I asked a source about the risk of McCaffrey’s recent injury history, he said it was a default risk and the 49ers would have had to pay much more if he didn’t have that history. The source said, of course, that McCaffrey could harm the 49ers, who are not immune to any of these. Violent game. However, the source said that keeping McCaffrey healthy long enough will help the 49ers win games. It can help them win the playoffs. Perhaps the greatest game ever. And there aren’t many players like that in the league, almost none of them available in October.

So they decided they had to take McCaffrey. And the 49ers got it.

They can now win matches with their defense. They have Jimmy Garoppolo who isn’t a star QB but has proven he can win games when he has a great running game. At the peak of their careers are Kittle, Deebo, Williams and Nick Bosa, among other stars. They will be interested in the future in the future. The target is now set to February 2023, Glendale, Arizona, and the 49ers are closer to that tonight than they were this morning.

(Best photo: Eakin Howard / Getty Images)

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