LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Los Angeles Rams have released Todd Gurley, their superstar running back with a massive contract and a troubling injury history.
The Rams made the move Thursday, several minutes before $10.5 million in the three-time Pro Bowl selection’s contract became fully guaranteed.
The Rams also cut veteran linebacker Clay Matthews after just one season with his hometown club. Matthews was due a $2 million roster bonus, among other guarantees.
Gurley will consume a whopping $20.15 million in dead salary cap space this season for the Rams, who signed the 2015 first-round pick to a four-year, $60 million contract with $45 million guaranteed in June 2018. Gurley was cut before even playing the first year of that extension, which made him the highest-paid running back in the NFL at the time.
Gurley had phenomenal seasons during his first two years in coach Sean McVay’s offense, rushing for 1,305 yards in 2017 and 1,251 in 2018 as those Rams reached the Super Bowl. He was voted the AP’s Offensive Player of the Year in 2017 after racking up 2,093 yards from scrimmage and 19 touchdowns.
But Gurley had a persistent left knee injury that limited his effectiveness down the stretch in 2018, and those problems carried over to last season.
He rushed for a career-low 857 yards last year while playing sparingly, although McVay never acknowledged it was because of Gurley’s knee issue. Gurley claimed ignorance about the reasons for his lack of action, including a career-low 223 carries and just 31 receptions, his lowest total since his rookie year.
So the Rams are cutting ties with one of the most effective running backs of the NFL’s last half-decade.
Gurley is tops in the NFL with 58 rushing touchdowns since he joined the league in 2015. His 5,404 yards rushing are second most in the league over the past half-decade, barely behind Dallas’ Ezekiel Elliott (5,405).
The Rams attempted to find trade partners to take Gurley, but his exorbitant contract apparently made it impossible. Instead of keeping one of their biggest stars as they move into new SoFi Stadium this season, the Rams let Gurley go.
The Rams are just beginning to get the bills for their spending spree over the past two years while trying to win now under McVay. Los Angeles went 9-7 last season but missed the playoffs after winning the previous two NFC West titles.
General manager Les Snead has recently handed out the biggest contracts in NFL history for a running back (Gurley), a quarterback (Jared Goff) and a defensive player (Aaron Donald). Then he traded two first-round picks for cornerback Jalen Ramsey, who will almost certainly get his own massive contract extension soon.
Darrell Henderson could be Gurley’s replacement after the third-round pick rushed for 147 yards in limited playing time as a rookie. Malcolm Brown, Gurley’s backup for all five seasons with the Rams, is also under contract for the upcoming season.
Matthews is the fifth defensive starter to leave the Rams in the offseason. He had eight sacks as an edge rusher after joining the Rams following a decade with the Green Bay Packers.
The Rams have parted with seven of their 11 defensive starters and their top nickel back in their season opener last year. New defensive coordinator Brandon Staley also replaced Wade Phillips.