To be fair, Gurley’s oppressive contract – as many have written, it became oppressive the moment he signed the extension – played a huge part in the Rams’ decision to cut one of their franchise tentpoles. That said, no team would have parted with Gurley had it believed he was still the Gurley of 2017 and the first part of 2018. Yes, running backs age fast, but Gurley is, we say again, 25. Last year was the worst of his five pro seasons, and he still rushed for 857 yards, 11th-best among NFL backs.
There’s no downside to the Falcons paying $5 million to take a one-year flyer. They needed a back; here’s a back. If they get 75% of peak Gurley, that will more than suffice. At issue is how much Gurley can give. Depending on your perspective, the Rams’ handling of Gurley was either a function of necessity, meaning he could no longer deliver the goods, or a product of stupidity. Something happened out there, something beyond his contract
There’s a chance that something, whatever it was, won’t happen here. He’s obviously wanted in Flowery Branch. (Though you can hear him saying, “Took you long enough.”) He’s the most beloved Bulldog of the past decade, and there are those who’ve never forgiven the Falcons for making Vic Beasley of Clemson, as opposed to TG of UGA, the first draftee of Dan Quinn’s stewardship. But here he is now, for better or for worse, and it’s tough to see Gurley making the Falcons worse.
If there’s a lesson here for anyone, it’s that spending big for a back should be a no-fly zone. In the summer of 2017, the Falcons signed Freeman to a $41.3 million extension, making him the league’s highest-paid runner at the time. A year later, the Rams lavished much more on Gurley, conferring the highest-paid mantle to him. The Falcons essentially swapped one for the other, both having been deemed dispensable by their previous employer.
If I knew for sure that Gurley’s left knee was OK, I’d say the Falcons just executed a coup. It might turn out to be considerably less than that, but it’s such a low-risk move as to bear almost no risk. Here’s something I haven’t said in a while: Well played, Falcons.