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 $10.5m 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 $2m roster bonus, among other guarantees.
Gurley will consume a whopping $20.15m in dead salary cap space this season for the Rams, who signed the 2015 first-round pick to a four-year, $60m contract with $45m 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.
With little salary cap space and clearly serious concerns about Gurley’s ability to perform at a level commensurate to the contract they gave him, the Rams abruptly cut ties with one of the most effective running backs of the NFL’s past half-decade.
Gurley reacted to his departure from his only NFL club with good humor.
“Damn I got fired on my day off,” he tweeted, along with a quarantine-related hashtag.
“All Business Nothing Personal,” he added in a subsequent tweet.
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.
Earlier Thursday, the Denver Broncos released Joe Flacco with a failed physical designation, putting another veteran NFL quarterback on the open market.
Flacco went 2-6 as Denver’s starter last season before a neck injury ended his season. He was eventually replaced by rookie Drew Lock, who went 4-1 down the stretch and was named the incumbent in 2020. This week the Broncos agreed to a two-year, $5m contract with free agent Jeff Driskel, who will back up Lock. The move to cut ties with Flacco comes with a $13m cap hit for the Broncos in 2020, but it frees up $10m to spend in free agency.
Flacco was the MVP of Super Bowl XLVII when he was with the Baltimore Ravens but has missed large chunks of the past two seasons with injuries, playing in nine games in 2018 in Baltimore and eight in 2019. Last season he threw for just six touchdowns with five interceptions and he was sacked a whopping 26 times in his eight starts.
After the season ended, Flacco said he was optimistic he’d be medically cleared to continue his career and was open to a backup job if it came to that. “I’m probably a little bit more worried about other things at this point,” Flacco said in December. “If that’s what it has to be, then, I want to play football … whether it’s here or wherever, if that’s what it’s going to take for me to get back in and start playing again, then yeah, I’ll go that route.”
Flacco said at the time he felt good enough to throw the football but “the question is, when I got hit or something like that, how I would hold up? The answer is probably not good at this point.”
Elsewhere, the Detroit Lions have agreed to trade cornerback Darius Slay to the Philadelphia Eagles, ending the standout defensive back’s seven-year stint in Detroit.
Agent Drew Rosenhaus confirmed the trade on Thursday and said that Slay has agreed to a three-year, $50m extension with Philadelphia. The Lions drafted Slay 36th overall in 2013, and he earned All-Pro honors in 2017. Slay wanted a new contract before last season and did not attend Detroit’s mandatory minicamp. He ended up reporting to training camp and played well enough to earn a third Pro Bowl nod.
Still, if there were any doubts about Slay’s wishes for the future, they seemed to be dispelled on Wednesday night after ESPN reported that Detroit had reached an agreement with cornerback Desmond Trufant. Slay tweeted that he wanted out. “Congrats to my guy!!!! Hope that speeds up my trade process!!” the tweet said.
Slay has 19 interceptions in his NFL career, including two last season. The Lions reportedly will receive 2020 draft picks in the third and fifth rounds for Slay.