The Carolina Panthers and Reggie Bonnafon agreed to a one-year contract to bring him back behind Christian McCaffrey.
On Tuesday running back Reggie Bonnafon and the Carolina Panthers agreed to a one-year deal worth $585,000 that will keep the former Louisville star with the team through the upcoming season. Bonnafon served as the second running back behind Christian McCaffrey in 2019, and will likely be in the same role in 2020. Bonnafon is still very much a young player, as he just turned 24 last month, and showed plenty of potential in limited snaps this past season. If nothing else, the now third-year pro will provide Carolina with stability in the return game. The Panthers would be wise, though, to also use Bonnafon to give McCaffrey an occasional play off.
McCaffrey played more snaps than any other running back in 2019, so Bonnafon’s return could take some of the load off of him.
Over the past two seasons, CMC has played in all 32 regular-season games, and has been on the field for an astounding 2,005 snaps, which equates to almost 93% of the team’s total. No other running back is even close to McCaffrey in that category. To add to his workload, he touched the ball on roughly 40% of the team’s plays in 2019, as well as led the league in touches, garnering 50 more than the next player behind him. McCaffrey broke the record for most catches by a running back in a single season in 2018, and extended his own record this past season. On top of that, he ran the ball almost 300 times in 2019. If anything is made clear about those statistics, it’s that his workload is incredibly heavy.
As good as McCaffrey is, he can’t sustain his level of performance if the Panthers continue to trot him out there on 93% of the team’s plays. Nobody can. Running back is one of the most physically demanding positions in football, and they’re constantly getting hit. That’s why most are out of the league by age 30. Fortunately for the Panthers, though, Bonnafon may be as ideal a backup as you can find for McCaffrey. The two players are very similar in the things they can do, and when Bonnafon was given opportunities in 2019, he generally made the most of them.
After playing multiple positions at Louisville, Bonnafon was one of the most versatile players entering the league in 2018.
Coming into the league, Bonnafon was perhaps one of the best all-purpose players in college football. During his freshman and sophomore years, Bonnafon played quarterback for Louisville. As a junior in 2016, he officially lost the QB job to one Lamar Jackson and was converted to wide receiver where he hauled in five touchdown passes. When the Cardinals moved him to running back a year later, he averaged nearly 5.0 yards per carry and had more rushes than anyone other than Jackson. Even at a new position, he continued to be a receiving threat as a senior, averaging 8.7 yards per reception and racking up eight total touchdowns.
While his college stats aren’t going to blow anyone away, the versatility he displayed is exactly what prompted the Panthers to bring him in as an undrafted free agent in 2018. Bonnafon spent the entire year on the practice squad, and worked his way to becoming an NFL-caliber tailback. His progression showed during the 2019 preseason as he proved not only to be a good player, but also that he possesses much of the same skill-set as McCaffrey.
Because he aligns so closely to CMC, he beat out rookies Jordan Scarlett and Elijah Holyfield for the backup running back job, and made veteran Cameron Artis-Payne expendable. As a result of McCaffrey’s intense workload, Bonnafon was afforded just 22 touches in his first true NFL season; however, when given the ball, he averaged eight yards per play, including a 59-yard touchdown against the Jaguars. Bonnafon may not ever be starting material, but he is certainly capable of extending McCaffrey’s career.