In the summer of 2018, the Los Angeles Rams gave running back Todd Gurley an extension worth $57.5 million over four years, with $45 million of that guaranteed. However, two years into the contract, the Rams cut him, just a day before they would have had to pay him $10.5 million that was guaranteed for this season in his contract.
Drama surrounding Gurley had been accumulating ever since the end of the 2018 season. His season started well that year, but a late knee injury ruled him out of playing in Week 16 and 17. After the bye, Gurley was cleared to play, but only had 30 touches split across their three playoff games.
The reasoning behind Gurley’s lack of usage was unclear and didn’t translate well into this season. He put up his worst number significantly, with 857 rushing yards on 223 attempts and 14 touchdowns, compared to his MVP candidate 2017 year, where he had 1305 rushing yards (2093 all-purpose yards), and 19 touchdowns on 279 attempts.
Just a day later, the Atlanta Falcons signed Gurley, bringing him back to the state where he played in college. The Falcons look to be setting themselves up to compete in the NFC South, after coming off an underwhelming season just two years ago, after being up 28-3 at halftime in the 2017 Super Bowl. The Falcons also picked up wide receiver Laquon Treadwell, ranked the number one at his position coming out of high school. Treadwell underperformed both in college and the pros. Also, the Falcons traded away Pro Bowl tight end Austin Hooper likely to save cap room, but were able to replace him with Hayden Hurst, a formidable back up on the Baltimore Ravens.
However, even with significant improvements in skilled positions, the Falcons defense is a worry for Atlanta supporters. They picked up outside linebacker Dante Fowler Jr., which will help them on the edge and hopefully improve their defense ranked 23 out of 32 in passing yards against. The Falcons are likely to continue to bolster their defense in the NFL draft this April.
The Falcons still come into the season +600 to win the NFC South, according to Sportsline. They’ll have to compete against the New Orleans Saints, who were deemed Super Bowl contenders this year before crashing out in the first round against the sixth-seeded Minnesota Vikings. Also, they’ll have to face the reinvigorated Tampa Bay Buccaneers who now host the greatest quarterback to ever play the game at age 43.
For the Rams, after a disappointing 8-8 season following a Super Bowl appearance in the year prior, they are likely past their Super Bowl window. Considering Gurley’s underutilization last year, they likely consider him a replaceable asset. However, with Jared Goff signing a four year $134 million dollar contract at the start of the season and performing unremarkably, it puts significant pressure on the Rams salary cap. Even with the likes of defensive tackle Aaron Donald on defense, the only noticeable pick up on defense was defensive tackle A’shawn Robinson from the Detroit Lions. We will have to see the suave, coaching genius of the 2018 Sean McVay and a reinvigorated Jared Goff if the Rams are going to compete this year, especially considering the difficulty of their division. Having to go up against the Super Bowl losers in the San Francisco 49ers, the divisional round losers in the Seattle Seahawks, and an Arizona Cardinal team with Deandre Hopkins, a playoff berth from the Rams seems unlikely in our opinion.