NFL

Todd Gurley Is an Average Running Back Getting Paid Like an Elite One

The Los Angeles Rams are off to a 3-0 start to the 2019 season, which helps to cover up the fact that they have a serious problem. The Rams just gave Jared Goff a four-year, $134 million contract extension that could wind up being a bad idea. But the potential overpayment on that contract is nothing compared to the one that Todd Gurley is getting on his current deal.

Todd Gurley was one of the best young running backs in the NFL when the Rams signed him to a four-year, $57.5 million extension that makes him one of the highest-paid running backs in the NFL. Unfortunately for the Rams, it’s starting to look like they are only going to get a small fraction of the production they are paying for.

Gurley has been on the decline since last season

Gurley put up some sensational numbers in 2017, rushing for 1,305 yards and 13 touchdowns and catching 64 passes for 788 yards and six touchdowns in 15 games. At just 23 years old at the time, you can’t blame the Rams for wanting to lock up their young star long-term.

On the surface, 2018 was more of the same, with Gurley rushing for 1,251 yards and 17 touchdowns and catching 59 passes for 580 yards and four touchdowns. But there were warning signs down the stretch; over his last five games of the season including the playoffs, Todd Gurley averaged only 69.4 total yards per game, nearly half of the 137.4 total yards he averaged over the first 12 games of 2018.

Sean McVay and Todd Gurley insisted that injuries weren’t the issue in Gurley’s pathetic performances in the NFC Championship Game and the Super Bowl. That’s hard to believe after he missed the final two games of the regular season with a knee injury and rushed for 115 yards on 16 carries in the divisional round against the Dallas Cowboys.

Whether it was injuries or not last year, the poor play he displayed in those two games has carried over into the 2019 season.

At this point, he’s just a shell of his former self

Todd Gurley struggles to find any openings against the Browns
Todd Gurley struggles to find any openings against the Browns | Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Todd Gurley has looked like a better-than-average back in exactly one quarter this season.

In the fourth quarter against the Carolina Panthers in Week 1, Gurley rushed for 64 yards and helped the Rams preserve a 30-27 lead in Carolina. Suddenly his abysmal eight yards on five carries in the first half seemed more forgivable, and maybe the Rams had a grand plan that made sense to keep their star running back’s legs fresh.

But then Gurley rushed for only 63 yards on 16 carries against the New Orleans Saints. And then he rushed for 43 yards on 14 carries against the Cleveland Browns. On the season, he’s caught four passes for eight yards. So dating back to last postseason, Todd Gurley has now rushed for only 248 yards and caught only six passes for 10 yards over his last five games.

Through the first three weeks of 2019, Gurley ranks 11th in the league in rushing yards with 203. He ranks outside of the top ten in yards per carry with 4.6 as well, has only one touchdown, and his impact on the receiving game is non-existent.

The Rams are stuck with him

$45 million of the $57.5 million that Gurley is owed over the life of this contract is guaranteed. The Rams don’t have a realistic out until after the 2021 offseason, when releasing him would only cost $4.2 million in dead cap money.

Todd Gurley is reportedly dealing with arthritis in his knee, which could explain why the slump he ended last year in has carried over into this year. Seeing as they need to keep him on the roster for this season and the next two, their solution seems to be to try to limit his workload.

And so it appears that he will continue only to offer modest production that an average running back could provide; while getting paid over seven times more than the average NFL back.