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After being traded to the San Francisco 49ers on Thursday night, Christian McCaffrey issued a farewell statement to the Carolina Panthers and their fans after five and a half seasons with the team. McCaffrey, an All-Pro dual threat running back and the Panthers' biggest star, was traded to San Francisco in exchange for second, third, and fourth-round picks in the 2023 NFL Draft, as well as a fifth-round pick in 2024.

McCaffrey had served as the face of the Panthers' franchise, as evidenced by a four-year, $64 million contract extension he signed in 2020. However, the team has fallen apart around him, and Carolina was in desperate need of more draft picks after only having four in 2023 due to a series of trades.

"I'm forever grateful for all of the people who have helped make these past 5 1/2 years so special for me," wrote McCaffrey. "Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Carolina, I will always love you."

After becoming one of the best players in all of college football at Stanford, McCaffrey was chosen by the Panthers with the No. 8-overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft to further the championship ambitions the team still had after their trip to Super Bowl 50 two years prior.

McCaffrey gave the Panthers another dual-threat offensive playmaker to make life easier for quarterback Cam Newton, and the running back quickly ingrained himself into a veteran core that included franchise greats like Newton, Greg Olsen, Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis.

After recording over 1,000 yards from scrimmage as a rookie, McCaffrey turned in his first 1,000+ yard rushing season in 2018 before exploding in 2019: McCaffrey finished the year with a career-high 1,387 rushing yards and 1,005 receiving yards, making him only the third player in NFL history to ever have over 1,000 rushing and receiving yards in a single season.

In spite of McCaffrey's individual brilliance, his efforts went largely to waste as his Panthers teams aged and went into decline. Then, McCaffrey's 2020 and 2021 seasons were short-circuited by injuries, with his lack of availability and its subsequent effect on the offense helping to doom former head coach Matt Rhule. McCaffrey has remained healthy this season, running the ball 85 times for 393 yards while also catching 33 passes for 277 yards.

He finishes his Panthers career with 3,980 rushing yards and 3,292 receiving yards, marks which rank fourth and sixth in franchise history, respectively. He also represented the Panthers in the 2019 Pro Bowl and was both a First and Second-Team All-Pro that same year.

McCaffrey now heads to San Francisco, a place where his personal ties run very deep. His father, former All-Pro wide receiver Ed McCaffrey, played for the 49ers' Super Bowl XXIX-winning team in 1994, where he worked with offensive coordinator MIke Shanahan -- whose son Kyle is now the 49ers' head coach.