In the aftermath of the Rams’ decision to cut running back Todd Gurley with three years left on his contract, a debate has emerged regarding whether Gurley won or lost. Some think Gurley lost because the Rams decided to tear up the second deal with multiple seasons remaining — and with nearly $37.5 million in unpaid compensation.
The reality is that Gurley won. He won big. And here’s why.
First, the second contract paid out $34.5 million over the first two years. That’s $17.25 million. For a running back. No running back makes that kind of money.
Second, Gurley’s agent structured the deal to force the Rams to make a quick decision in 2020 as to whether they wanted to continue it for a third year. By including a trigger that would have resulted in another $10.5 million becoming fully guaranteed, the Rams had to cut Gurley on the second day of the league year, allowing him to quickly land with the Falcons.
Without that term, the Rams could have squatted on Gurley indefinitely, waiting for a chance to trade him if, for example, a team gets through the draft without addressing its needs at the position or if a starter gets injured. Then, if no trade opportunities had emerged, Gurley would have been dumped just before the start of the season, at a time when the Falcons and every other team would have been ready to go at the position, and thus would have had no need for Gurley.
Third, the Rams didn’t have to give Gurley a second contract in 2018, after only three NFL seasons. If they’d waited simply a year, they never would have offered him the package that they did, based on a knee that became problematic throughout what became the first year of the new contract. Gurley struck while the iron was the hottest it was ever going to be, getting $34.5 million for two seasons of football that, frankly, didn’t live up to the standard that laid the foundation for his payday.
Fourth, and perhaps most importantly, the Rams didn’t have to give him a second contract at all. They could have done what the Chargers did to Melvin Gordon, refusing to deviate from the four-year rookie deal or the fifth-year options, paying Gurley $13.823 million for four years and $9.63 million for the option year and letting him walk away with $23.45 million for five seasons. Instead, they ripped up the contract after three years and $11.5 million and giving him $34.5 million for two more years.
That’s $46 million for five years — nearly twice what Gurley would have gotten if the Rams had simply “honored the contract” that Gurley had signed in 2015.