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Todd Gurley’s 2018 contract with the Rams would still be a top-3 RB deal today

Even Gurley’s rookie contract in 2015 would make him among the highest paid backs in 2023

Arizona Cardinals v Los Angeles Rams Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

When the Los Angeles Rams gave Todd Gurley a four-year, $57.5 million contract extension in 2018, the move was met with celebration by some fans but the analytics community was appalled. Though the trending topic of training camp this year is “running back value,” this is a conversation that dates back at least a decade and Gurley was at the center of it from the 2015 draft to his 2018 extension to his 2020 release.

Remarkably, his 2018 contract extension would still make him the third-highest running back in football if he got it today—AND—his 2015 rookie contract would rank 13th in total value and seventh in guarantees!

For a rookie contract that is eight years old.

Gurley’s 2018 deal was advertised at the time as a $60 million contract with $45 million guaranteed, but soon the real numbers came out: $57.5 and $22 million. Those are still numbers that 99% of running backs today will never see.

In fact, his full guarantee amount of $21,950,000 is exactly $8,544 less than what rookie Bijan Robinson just got on his four-year deal as the eighth overall pick in the draft.

The only running backs in the NFL who make more guaranteed than Robinson are Christian McCaffrey and Derrick Henry:

McCaffrey has a contract worth $64,063,412 that averages $16,015,853 per year and had $30,062,500 fully-guaranteed.

Henry has a contract worth $50,000,000 that averages $12,500,000 per year and has $25,500,000 fully-guaranteed.

So actually, Gurley’s contract from five years ago ranks behind McCaffrey in basically every key category, while he STILL beats Henry in total value and average annual value, only sitting behind him in full guarantee. Right now, five years later, Todd Gurley’s $45 million “total” guarantee, which he never came close to, is the best in the history of running backs.

It’s been five years.

The only other running back in the league who would make more than Gurley if he got the contract today is Alvin Kamara, who has a $75,000,000 deal that averages $15,000,000 per year and has $17,833,000 fully-guaranteed.

That means that Gurley’s 2018 contract extension is basically the third-best RB contract today and he was set to earn more than Derrick Henry, Nick Chubb, Saquon Barkley, Josh Jacobs, Aaron Jones, Tony Pollard, and Austin Ekeler have on their current deals today. Ekeler makes $6.125 million per year compared to $14.375 million per year for Gurley.

There was a lot of talk at the time in 2018 of Gurley “re-setting the market”, but I never believed that. I believed that the only thing that happened that day is: The Los Angeles Rams ignored the market, didn’t care what people thought of the deal, gave Gurley a lot of money that they suspected he would never get, and then the rest of the league treated it as an outlier.

Which is exactly what happened.

Le’Veon Bell got less than Gurley when he signed a contract extension in 2019: $52.5 million over four years, $13.25 million per year, $14.47 million guaranteed.

David Johnson got less than Gurley too: $39 million over three years, $13 million per year, but he did reportedly get nearly $24 million at signing.

But Gurley didn’t reset any market. He put the market on notice, he was released before his extension was even set to kick in, and teams got scared about signing any running backs to long-term deals after Gurley, Bell, and Johnson all got hurt and/or underperformed. That’s the main reason why five years after Todd Gurley “re-set the market”, his exact same deal could “re-set the market” today.