It’s a tale as old as the NFL salary cap itself: Player gets huge deal, player’s production slips while his contract gets bigger, player gets cut.
It seemed that was what happened with the Los Angeles Rams and running back Todd Gurley. He got a four-year, $57.5 million extension, then after the Rams curiously backed off his workload over a knee issue that has still never been fully explained, Gurley wasn’t worth the money anymore. He was cut, and scooped up by the Atlanta Falcons on a one-year, $6 million deal.
Easy, right? Maybe not. The Rams wouldn’t say it was a salary-cap related move.
Rams say cutting Todd Gurley not a cap issue
Rams coach Sean McVay and general manager Les Snead discussed the decision to cut Gurley on Monday. And while it is obvious the move was related to money, the Rams wouldn’t say it.
"In this case, I don't think it's a salary cap issue, but in the puzzle, like I said in putting together your short-term and long-term vision of trying to consistently contend what you pay players comes into play, obviously producing comes into play,” Snead said, according to ESPN’s Lindsey Thiry.
There are a lot of words tossed together there, but Snead made it sound like production and not the salary cap was the biggest reason Gurley is no longer a Ram.
It’s true that the Rams will see only a $5.5 million cap savings after June 1, because Gurley was designated a post-June 1 cut and the dead cap hit can be spread out between two seasons. A savings of $5.5 million won’t buy much that late in the offseason. Gurley left behind $20.15 million in dead money on the salary cap, according to NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero, but the team avoided paying $10.5 million in salary and bonuses that were about to be guaranteed.
That large sum was behind the move. Though the Rams curiously wouldn’t explain their motivation behind the move in a clearer way.
Gurley’s production had dropped
Gurley’s production did drop in 2019. His 3.8 yards per carry was down dramatically from his average of 4.9 in 2018. His yards per reception was a career-worst 6.7, well off his career-best mark of 12.3 in 2017.
Gurley wasn’t terrible, just not at his typical level. And the Rams decided to move on. Snead said “we all wish the partnership could have lasted longer.”
"A lot of the decisions we make aren't exclusively about a player, but you're talking about how to fit a big puzzle together with your team," McVay said. "These are conversations that require a lot of different directions and kind of projections based on where we're at, where we want to be... but there certainly were a lot of things that went into the discussion and ultimately the decision to make that move."
Whether Malcolm Brown and Darrell Henderson, Gurley’s backups in 2019, can be more productive behind a decaying offensive line this season remains to be seen. But the Rams say the decision to cut Gurley was more complicated than just saving some money on the cap.
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