Compared to the NBA, teams in the NFL aren’t usually saddled with costly contracts that threaten to impede any opportunities to improve the roster. Most of the time, a team can cut bait without clogging up the salary cap too much.
The Los Angeles Rams’ problem with RB Todd Gurley’s knee is not a “most of the time” situation. This is rarified air.
Not even a year after signing a massive multi-year contract, Gurley is rumored to have arthritis in a knee that was first injured in November of 2014 playing for the Georgia Bulldogs.
Rams running back Todd Gurley has arthritis in his knee, according to a source. Helps explain his limited usage in the playoffs.— Jeff Howe (@jeffphowe) March 2, 2019
Without going into the medical guessing game of the actual severity of Todd Gurley’s knee, let’s just assume that for right now Gurley is not going to be the bell cow running back that he showed himself to be at times.
Does the Super Bowl window for the Rams suddenly close if Gurley can’t handle more than a half dozen or so touches a game and is basically a shadow of himself?
This would obviously be a bad beat for the front office of the Rams. Gurley’s four-year, $60m contract doesn’t even kick in until after the 2019 season, and $45m of that money is guaranteed. So, things would look pretty grim on the salary cap front if Gurley’s knee doesn’t improve.
However, Rams Head Coach McVay wouldn’t exactly be left without an avenue to success. He has already shown that he can win with heavy doses of QB Jared Goff’s passing attack and the experiment with RB C.J. Anderson proved to be an effective addition. While it’s definitely not the preferred option, the Rams aren’t down for the count.
The Rams would need to change their identity though.
The Rams could lean on their tight ends more, giving more of the spotlight to Gerald Everett — which is what McVay was expected to do when he was hired with the Rams, given his success with Washington’s tight ends.
An interesting wrinkle: if Gurley can’t be counted on to be a major piece in the offense, does this change the team’s thoughts about signing Jared Goff to a massive extension? Without the threat of an elite athlete in the backfield, does Goff take a huge step backwards?
The LA Rams need to acquire a running back (or backs) on the cheap in order to mask their potential Gurley problem. This could very well be solved by developing RB John Kelly in such a way that Gurley could mentor the young rusher while he’s still under his rookie contract. Given that Anderson was brought in at the end of last season, it seems the coaches weren’t confident in Kelly’s progress. It might be a stretch to expect him to make the leap for the 2019 season.
Acquiring a productive, big name running back in free agency would likely be a no-go since the Rams just don’t have the budget for it. A combination of new options from the 2019 NFL Draft, the undrafted free agent period thereafter and any development from Kelly seem like the most likely remedies.
If Gurley’s knee does indeed cut short his brilliant career, the Rams will need a lot of luck, ingenious strategy, and a brand new offensive gameplan.
Let’s just hope that isn’t necessary.
The Rams gave Todd a contract he deserved to as the heart of the Rams’ offense.
Just a month after Super Bowl LIII, it sounds like that heartbeat might be fainter than ever.