Once among the upper echelon of running backs in the NFL, Todd Gurley finds himself on the open market yet again, awaiting a team to sign him. Due to concerning knee issues, the 26-year-old was released by the Los Angeles Rams in 2019 after inking a massive contract extension the offseason prior. The Atlanta Falcons quickly swooped in, only to let him hit free agency at the end of the year. Now, Gurley is searching for his third landing spot in as many seasons.
Arthritis or not, Todd Gurley can still produce
In March of 2019, Jeff Howe of The Atheltic reported Gurley had arthritis in his left knee. This explains his recent dip in production and playing time in Los Angeles and Atlanta over the past two seasons. On account of this development, it is safe to assume Gurley’s feature-back days are over.
Gurley is the most recent poster boy for why franchises should not spend high draft capital or offer significant contract extensions to running backs. However, this does not mean he can’t be a valuable addition to a roster.
While no team should expect him to carry the rock 200-plus times in a single season, Gurley can come in on short-yardage situations. Additionally, he provides a reliable rotational piece in any running back committee. Through the first five games of 2020, Gurley proved his viability despite facing negative game scripts. He totaled 79 carries for 375 yards and 5 touchdowns.
On the other hand, his play gradually fell off the rest of the season, averaging over 4.0 yards per carry in just one contest in that cohort. What was the difference between the first five weeks and the last 12? The Falcons fired GM Thomas Dimitroff and head coach Dan Quinn after five straight losses, leaving RBs coach Raheem Morris at the helm in the interim. Not everything can be blamed on front office and coaching staff turnover, but Gurley was not given a fair hand.
Gurley finished the 2020 campaign with 678 yards and 9 touchdowns on 195 carries, adding another 164 yards on 25 receptions. With many teams requiring assistance in the RB room, Gurley should have no trouble finding a home. In fact, he tweeted last week that he was nearing a deal with his next team.
Potential landing spots for Gurley
New York Jets
I can hear the J-E-T-S fans clamoring for my dismissal from Pro Football Network after this. Listen, I know what happened with Le’Veon Bell — he will be a dead cap hit until 2023. Nevertheless, Gurley will cost far less with a market value of $5.5 million APY, according to Spotrac. La’Mical Perine and Ty Johnson currently lead the Jets’ running back depth chart. Signing a veteran like Gurley should solidify the position.
San Francisco 49ers
Kyle Shanahan loves himself some versatile running backs. Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson Jr. are impressive in their own right but missed a combined 12 games last season. JaMycal Hasty was solid in relief but nothing special. The 49ers have shown no interest in signing Gurley, but the former Georgia standout stated in an interview, “I’ve definitely thought about that (playing for the 49ers). Shanahan’s a great coach.”
Who better to get the most out of a former Offensive Player of the Year than Shanahan? Well, maybe there is an argument for someone further down the list.
Kansas City Chiefs
Yes, they drafted Clyde Edwards-Helaire in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft, but that does not mean they do not need depth at the position. Kansas City signed Le’Veon Bell midway through last season to a veteran-minimum deal en route to their second-consecutive Super Bowl appearance. Bell was not spectacular by any means, but Andy Reid helped him churn out serviceable performances. Why can’t he do the same for Gurley?
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