Rhule and general manager Marty Hurney will be able to do just that for the foreseeable future, as Carolina on Thursday officially signed McCaffrey to an extension that will keep him under contract through the 2025 season.
McCaffrey's previous rookie deal went through 2020 with a fifth-year team option for 2021, as the running back was a first-round pick in 2017.
"I don't know where to start saying thank you," McCaffrey said Thursday. "First off, just to the whole Panthers organization for believing in me and allowing me to continue my career in the play where it started. Thank you to Mr. Tepper for believing in me and thank you to Marty Hurney for believing in me, coach Rhule for believing in me. I couldn't be more excited."
The No. 8 overall pick of that NFL Draft, McCaffrey has emerged as the league's premiere multi-threat running back — becoming the only player in NFL history to record at least 2,500 yards rushing and receiving in his first three seasons. And as a player who has just completed his third year in the NFL, McCaffrey's extension comes essentially as soon as he was eligible for it.
"I'm hella happy for him — hella happy. That man's worked his butt off for that," linebacker Shaq Thompson said. "I mean, his first three years, you see what he's done — the numbers are crazy. To me, he's the best back in the league until you prove me different. And it's well deserved. He works hard in practice and it translates to the game. He's just one of those good guys."
McCaffrey became the first rookie running back in league history to record at least 70 receptions and five receiving touchdowns. Then in his second year, McCaffrey became the first player in the NFL to have at least 50 rushing yards and 50 receiving yards in five consecutive games, as he finished No. 3 in all-purpose yards for the season.
In 2019, McCaffrey became just the third player in NFL history to record at least 1,000 yards rushing and receiving in a single season — joining Roger Craig (1985) and Hall of Famer Marshall Faulk (1999) as the only players to accomplish the feat. McCaffrey led the league with 2,392 yards from scrimmage — the third-most in a single season in league history — and 402 touches.
"He's a better version of me," Faulk said in February. "He got to watch me. He got to see me. It's what happens. You get to be a better version of (who came before you)."
McCaffrey's stellar 2019 earned him his first Pro Bowl berth and a first-team All-Pro selection at two positions — running back and flex. His 116 receptions set an NFL record for a running back in a single season.
McCaffrey has already set numerous franchise records in his first three seasons, including most receiving yards (2,523), receptions (303), and receiving touchdowns (15) by a running back. And his 84-yard touchdown against the Jaguars last October was the team's longest rush.
McCaffrey played college football at Stanford, where he was a Heisman finalist in 2015 after setting an NCAA record with 3,864 all-purpose yards. He again led the nation in all-purpose yards as a junior in 2016, averaging 211.5 yards per game.
"We have a great thing going, a fresh start, and I'm more than excited," McCaffrey said. "So to all the Panthers fans out there, I hope you're as excited as I am. We're going to go out there and win some games and give you everything we've got."
A first-round pick in 2017, McCaffrey has already set a number of franchise records as he signs a contract extension through 2025 with the Panthers.