With another $10.5 million in compensation under Gurley’s blockbuster deal due to become fully guaranteed on March 20, the Rams reportedly want to meet with Gurley.
The Rams surely regretted the Gurley contract, signed in June 2018, by the time its first year concluded. In 2019, he became a part-time player whose abilities and contributions simply don’t justify the terms to which the Rams have committed.
He received $21 million to sign, part of $34.5 million in guarantees that fully vested last March. If they’d cut him now, Gurley would walk away with $17.25 million per year for two seasons. (Of the $34.5 million, $31.95 million would not be subject to offset.)
Keeping Gurley beyond March 20 means that his $5.5 million base salary for 2020 along with a $5 million roster bonus for 2021 will become fully guaranteed. He’s also due make $5 million in base salary in 2021.
So it’s not hard to guess the subject of the meeting. The Rams, I believe, will tell Gurley that they want to keep him, but that they can’t justify keeping him under the terms of his current deal, which was signed before Gurley’s knee necessitated making him something less than the workhorse he’d been before signing the deal.
The Rams could (and maybe should) allow Gurley to gauge the market elsewhere, to see if anyone would offer him as much or more than whatever the Rams are willing to pay on a restructured deal. Chances are that Gurley won’t do any better than whatever the Rams would pay, especially since keeping Gurley on the roster would avoid a cap charge of $12.6 million in signing bonus acceleration and $7.55 million in a fully-guaranteed roster bonus for 2020. (They could push $8.4 million in dead money into 2021 by designating Gurley as a post-June 1 release, pending the completion of a new CBA before the start of the league year.)
Of course, Gurley may decide to simply refuse whatever the Rams offer, even if he ends up getting less elsewhere. With $34.5 million (or at a minimum $31.95 million) in hand, he can afford to take a stand on principle and to force his way to the open market.
Gurley has a short fuse when it comes to conversations about his knee, and it won’t be easy for the Rams to sell him on the idea of taking less without mentioning the elephant in the room. The moment they do could be the moment Gurley refuses to do anything other that sit and wait for another $10.5 million in guaranteed money to vest — or for the Rams to rip up the contract and make him a free agent.