Former offensive player of the year Todd Gurley wasn’t out of the job very long.
The Los Angeles Rams cut Gurley two years into a four-year, $57.5 million contract on Thursday; but by Friday morning the University of Georgia product signed a single season deal with the Atlanta Falcons. Atlanta will pay him six million dollars; while the Rams owe him an additional $7.5 million according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
WE GOT HIM. pic.twitter.com/N5aGYeYoFJ
— Atlanta Falcons (@AtlantaFalcons) March 20, 2020
High Risk, High Reward
Gurley has always possessed the ability to dominate the football field.
In his first two seasons at Georgia he missed just three games while he rumbled for more than 2,300 yards and 27 touchdowns. As a junior in 2014 he was off to an even more blistering pace, amassing 911 yards and nine scores over the first six games. But the injury bug reared its head for the first serious time in his career, as he tore his ACL in a November game against Auburn.
Despite the injury, the then-St. Louis Rams drafted him with the 10th overall pick in the 2015 draft. After missing the first three games of the season rehabbing his knee, Gurley proved his college performance was no fluke. Averaging nearly five yards per carry and scoring 10 touchdowns, he was the lone bright spot on an offense that scored the third fewest points per game in NFL.
After making the Pro Bowl as a rookie, he experienced a bit of a sophomore slump with the Rams doing little to add help. With fewer yards and touchdowns in more games, people were unsure which version of him was the real one. His work over the next two seasons as both a runner and receiving threat out of the backfield amassing nearly 4,000 scrimmage yards and 40 total touchdowns.
He was voted first team All-Pro in consecutive seasons and seemed to be the cornerstone of the Rams offense.
Forever a part of our history.
— Los Angeles Rams (@RamsNFL) March 19, 2020
A Lingering Problem
But despite his statical brilliance, the end of 2018 foreshadowed a developing problem.
After 256 carries in the regular season, Gurley carried the ball just 30 times in three playoff games. In the following offseason his trainer revealed an “arthritic component,” to his surgically repaired knee. While it is a problem Gurley and teams were previously aware of, the 2018 postseason brought it to general attention.
As a result Gurley’s usage, as well as the Rams’ fortunes, dipped significantly in 2019. While he still appeared in 15 games and reached the end zone 14 times; he posted career lows in carries and yards and his second lowest yards per carry. One year removed from a Super Bowl appearance, the Rams missed the playoffs.
Facing the reality of having a lot of money tied up in what they now considered to be an unreliable asset; Los Angeles decided to part ways with the man they made the richest running back in the NFL just two years ago.
With the Falcons recently releasing their own veteran running back in Devonta Freeman, Gurley has an opportunity for a fresh start. At just 25-years-old, Atlanta could have one of the steals of the 2020 free agent class.