How quickly could the Rams move on from Todd Gurley?

Los Angeles Rams

The Los Angeles Rams gave Todd Gurley a nice contract, but could they get out from it sooner than expected?

A little over a year ago, the Los Angeles Rams gave Todd Gurley a four-year, $57.5 million contract ($45 million guaranteed) extension. It’s usually foolish to commit that kind of money to a running back, but the 24-year-old Gurley was in his prime and the centerpiece of an offense that was primed to remain one of the league’s best for years to come.

Fast forward to now. Gurley missed time with a knee issue late last season and had a reduced workload in the playoffs. Reports of arthritis in the same knee Gurley suffered a torn ACL in college at Georgia surfaced, but the team has been evasive about it. It had to be a concern for the team after trading up in the NFL Draft to select Darrell Henderson in the third round, however.

Gurley’s workload has remained diminished through four games this season, with 49 carries for 219 yards (4.5 yards per carry) and he’s averaging 15 touches per game. He had a regular-season career-low five carries (for 16 yards) in Week 4 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, due in part to a negative game script and Jared Goff throwing the ball 68 times. Further, Malcolm Brown is getting a big workload at and around the goal line with the hopes of preserving Gurley’s health for the stretch run.

Rams head coach Sean McVay has taken the brunt of the blame for Gurley’s lack of work. Gurley clearly doesn’t want to talk about it, only saying “I don’t call the plays, bro.”

The Rams would be right to make sure Gurley is good to go for what they hope will be another deep playoff run this year. But if his knee is indeed arthritic, or he’s just simply entering a decline phase after 813 carries over the last three full seasons, how easily could the Rams move on from him?

For this year and next, Gurley will count $26.45 million against the salary cap. His 2020 cap hit is $17.25 million, and if the Rams were to cut him next spring they would take on $25.65 million in dead money while clearing $8.4 million in cap space, according to Over the Cap. In 2021, the dead money hit drops to $8.4 million with $4.8 in cleared cap space. In 2022, the dead money becomes $4.8 million with cap space cleared of $10 million.

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As a practical matter, the Rams are stuck with Gurley through at least the 2020 season. Then cutting him becomes far more palatable, even if the dead money hit and the cleared cap space don’t equal out. In March of 2022, if he’s still around, Gurley is as good as gone if things remain on their current track regarding health concerns and reduced workloads.

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