Last week, the Rams locked up wide receiver Brandin Cooks to a 5 year/$80 million extension. Yesterday, they extended another young offensive player in running back Gurley. Los Angeles signed him to a record-breaking 4 year/$60 million extension with $45 million guaranteed. Gurley is now the highest paid running back and his $45 million in guarantees is the most of all time. Let’s take a closer look into this huge extension.
Gurley, 23, had over 2000 combined yards last season (1305 rushing yards and 788 receiving yards). He’s been a little inconsistent, as he had 1106 rushing yards in 13 games in his rookie season, but only had 885 rushing yards in a full season his sophomore season. However, that may have been due to the poor coaching by Jeff Fisher, who is a defensive minded coach. He was a perfect fit for offensive mastermind Sean McVay’s scheme, hence why he had such a good season. As long as he has McVay calling the shots, Gurley should be able to produce at a high level for a good part of his contract.
Now Gurley is a great running back, but did he deserve to be the highest paid? Between his elite rushing and receiving ability, he’s arguably the most complete running back. His elusiveness, power, and quickness make him less dependent on his offensive line than Le’Veon Bell, who’s patient style makes him extremely dependent on his offensive line. Gurley’s extension also will take him into his age 29 season, which is the age when running backs tend to regress. That means that the Rams will be getting the most out of him, thus this contract is actually good value.
Now, does this contract change the running back market? Sort of. It’s important to remember that Gurley is only 23, and has only three seasons under his belt. Le’Veon Bell, on the other hand, is 26, and a similar extension would take him into his 30s. He may get a contract with more base salary, but nothing close to Gurley’s guaranteed money. The same goes for David Johnson. This does, however, change the running back market for young running backs such as Alvin Kamara, Kareem Hunt, Ezekiel Elliot, and Saquon Barkley. Assuming these young running backs continue to progress into elite running backs, their teams may be more inclined to give them 3 to 5-year extensions similar to Gurley’s contract, rather than do what the Steelers did to Le’Veon Bell and use the franchise tag multiple times.
The Rams may have completely changed the running back market, but only for running backs under the age of 25. Todd Gurley deserves to be the highest paid running back, and the Rams are going the be getting all of his prime years. This is an excellent investment for the Rams, as they continued to lock up their core. Next up, Aaron Donald and Marcus Peters.