This move comes less than 15 minutes before Gurley would have been guaranteed $10.5M. It will send the 25-year-old running back into free agency. The Rams will eat a staggering $20.15M in dead money, according to the report.
Gurley’s four-year, $57.5M contract — with $45M guaranteed — reset the running back market in 2018, and the superstar all-purpose back was one of the NFL’s best players for most of the 2018 season. But a late-season knee injury altered his career. Gurley has not looked like the same player, for the most part, since.
An explosive talent since coming to St. Louis in the first round of the 2015 draft, Gurley shook off an ACL tear he sustained while at Georgia to win Offensive Rookie of the Year honors that season. His peak stretch occurred from 2017-18, when he totaled 40 touchdowns and nearly 4,000 yards from scrimmage. Gurley was the centerpiece of coach Sean McVay’s attack during the Rams’ resurgence over this time, but last season his workload and per-touch averages plummeted.
Although Gurley played in 15 games last season, his yards per-carry average dropped from 4.9 to 3.8. A year after having 59 receptions for 580 yards, Gurley totaled just 31 catches for 207 yards in 2019.
The Rams worked backup Malcolm Brown into the offense more, which followed Gurley’s sudden timeshare with C.J. Anderson in the 2018 playoffs. Brown and 2019 third-round pick Darrell Henderson now reside as the Rams’ top running backs.
This marks another bad sign for high-end running back deals. Gurley resetting the market led to David Johnson, Le’Veon Bell and Ezekiel Elliott landing contracts averaging as much as $13M per season. The Johnson and Bell deals quickly became onerous for their respective franchises.
With the talented 2017 running back class now extension-eligible, it will be interesting to see how teams proceed given the early returns from the new running back market.
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