By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
With a $10.5 million roster bonus due, and with a trade failing to present itself, the Los Angeles Rams bit the bullet and outright released running back Todd Gurley after five seasons with the franchise on Thursday.
The release comes less than two years after Gurley signed a four-year, $60 million extension with the Rams, a deal that at the time was historic thanks to its $45 million in guaranteed money (the most ever for a running back).
It’s also the Rams cutting ties with the No. 10 overall pick from the 2015 NFL Draft after a 2019 season that included a career-low 857 rushing yards for Gurley, and the second-lowest yard-per-carry figure (3.8) of the 6-foot-1 back’s career.
While you can argue that this is what happens when you recklessly pay a running back top dollar, this also seems to be the corner the Rams have backed themselves into after trying to straight-up buy a Super Bowl during quarterback Jared Goff’s rookie contract window. With countless “win now” moves and signings that brought them to one Super Bowl (a loss to the Patriots), the Rams currently find themselves cash-strapped and lacking (significantly) in their draft pick cupboard.
Gurley, the 2017 NFL Offensive Player of the Year and a three-time Pro Bowler during his L.A. run, will be released with a post-June 1 designation (according to ESPN’s Field Yates), which means that his release will come with $5.5 million in cap savings come June 2. But Gurley’s departure will also come with some significant dead money on the Rams’ books over the next two seasons, with almost $12 million in dead money in 2020 and over $8 million in 2021.
The 25-year-old Gurley hits the open market with 5,404 rushing yards, 2,090 receiving yards, and 70 total touchdowns (58 on the ground and 12 through the air) in 73 career games.
But Gurley may not be the only subtraction from the Los Angeles offense in 2020, as the Rams are also exploring the trade market for wide receiver Brandin Cooks, according to The Athletic’s Jeff Howe.
Cooks, acquired from the Patriots for a first-round pick and a late-round pick swap back in 2018, is coming off an injury-shortened 2019 campaign saw him total a career-low 42 catches and two touchdowns in 14 contests. The 5-foot-10 Cooks is entering the second year of a five-year, $81 million contract signed shortly after his trade from New England to Los Angeles.
On the other side of the ball, the Rams also released veteran linebacker Clay Matthews. Playing outside of Green Bay colors for the first time in his professional career, the 33-year-old Matthews had 37 tackles and eight sacks for the Rams last year.