The Los Angeles Rams released Todd Gurley on Thursday, ending the 25-year-old running back's tenure with the team. It also ended the disaster that was the four-year, $60 million contract the Rams gave him in 2018, a deal that was a mess the minute it was signed.
Gurley got $45 million guaranteed at the time, making him the highest-paid running back in the NFL. In the end, the Rams will be forced to pay him $7.55 million and absorb $12.6 million in dead cap on top of that just to release him. So how did it come to this? Well, Gurley may only be 25, but his knees are a falling apart.
Gurley was the NFL's Offensive Player of the Year in 2017 before the Rams gave him that big contract. He rushed for 1,305 yards and 13 touchdowns on 279 carries (4.7 yards per carry), while catching 64 passes for 788 yards and six more scores that season. He was brilliant and became the face of the franchise.
In 2018, Gurley was roughly as good, rushing for 1,251 yards and 17 touchdowns on 256 carries (4.9 yards per carry), and catching 59 passes for 580 yards and four touchdowns. But sometime in 2018, the Rams started going to Gurley less and less. Head coach Sean McVay started going away from his big-play running back and relying more on Jared Goff's arm. It made no sense.
Gurley topped 20 carries just once in the final nine games (including the playoffs) of the 2018 season. In the NFC Championship Game against the New Orleans Saints, Gurley got four carries and one reception. In Super Bowl LIII he had 10 carries and one reception. It was puzzling. The Rams' best offensive player had been neutered.
In 2019, everything fell apart for Gurley, as he gained just 857 yards on 223 carries (3.8 yards per carry) and caught just 31 passes for 207 yards. He did total 14 touchdowns but it was clear something was wrong.
This is why giving running backs big contracts is foolish. Gurley is only 25 but the punishment he's taken has basically destroyed his promising career. The deals he and Ezekiel Elliott received might be the last big contracts giving to running backs. They just don't stay healthy long enough to make the investment worth it.
Gurley seems to be taking the news in stride, but it has to sting that things didn't work out with the Rams. No one knows if he can relaunch his career elsewhere or if his knee is so bad that he'll never be a serviceable back again.
We'll see what's next, but one thing is for sure, that was a horrible contract for the Rams.