Who Could take a chance on the Rams Former OPOY?
By Calvin K (Twitter: @Calvin_SGF)
Todd Gurley has had an up-and-down career. In his first four NFL seasons, Gurley racked up 6,430 yards from scrimmage, finishing with at least 1,200 scrimmage yards in all four years. However, over the past two years, he has battled knee problems, and even when he’s been on the field, he’s been inefficient.
Gurley signed a one-year contract with the Atlanta Falcons last offseason, and he looked below average on the field in 2020, averaging just 3.5 yards per carry on the season. The Falcons eventually benched Gurley entirely for Ito Smith late in the season, and as Gurley heads into free agency, it’s difficult to see a situation where he starts at running back for any team.
However, Gurley is still just 26 years old, and there should be at least some interest coming his way during the offseason because of his previous success. Here are five top destinations for the seventh-year pro.
New England Patriots
Patriots coach Bill Belichick doesn’t tend to spend big on RBs in free agency, and Gurley is a cheap veteran option who could draw New England’s interest. It’s not like Belichick is unwilling to take a chance on a declining veteran (see: Cam Newton), and at the very least, Gurley could provide some competition in a backfield that doesn’t have a true workhorse RB. That’s not to say Gurley could or should be a workhorse, but he could potentially siphon away some carries from current starter Damien Harris. Having a more limited offensive role could extend Gurley’s career, and it would help lighten the load placed on his worn-out knees.
Because Gurley is a free agent, the Patriots can choose to offer him a cheap deal, and if interest in Gurley is low elsewhere, he might be convinced to accept it. There’s a very good chance that Gurley doesn’t work out in New England, but if he could at least be serviceable, the Patriots would be making a good move by signing him.
As mentioned earlier, Gurley’s main problems have been injuries and inefficiency. With the Jaguars, he could step in to a limited role behind starting running back James Robinson. Gurley’s efficiency would most likely rise while sharing a backfield with J-Rob, and he could function well as a change-of-pace guy in that offense.
Despite Robinson’s fantastic season, the Jaguars still finished with the fourth-fewest rushing yards out of any team this season. This was largely due to the lack of RB depth in Jacksonville, and Robinson got a huge percentage of the team’s rushes because the Jags essentially had no one else to hand the ball to. If the Jaguars signed Gurley, he would be able to lighten the load placed on Robinson, while in turn lightening the load placed on his own knees by becoming a backup. Jacksonville wouldn’t have to pay much for Gurley, so giving him a one-year deal would be a low-risk way to get a backup RB.
Gurley would probably have a decent-sized role in Pittsburgh, as they are in turmoil at RB. Starting running back James Conner is a free agent this offseason, and the Steelers are unlikely to offer him much to re-sign, given his struggles this year. If Conner doesn’t return to Pittsburgh, the Steelers would be left with Benny Snell Jr., Anthony McFarland Jr., and Jaylen Samuels – not exactly an elite trio.
If Gurley came to Pittsburgh, he would have a shot at being the starter for the team, but his reps would need to be managed. Pittsburgh will probably look to the draft for a running back as well, given their salary cap situation (about $14 million over the cap). Splitting carries with another RB would probably be ideal for Gurley, particularly in Pittsburgh. The Steelers’ offensive line is one of the worst run-blocking units in the league, so Gurley would probably struggle as their main running back. However, he still has the potential to be serviceable in a committee, so the Steelers could be willing to take a chance by giving him a (cheap) contract.
Even with David Johnson in Houston (via the DeAndre Hopkins trade), the Texans still had the second-fewest rushing yards out of any team in 2020. Johnson was still effective for the Texans, but his main impact came as a pass-catcher, and the Texans didn’t have another reliable runner on the team. Gurley could slot in as a change-of-pace guy who could shoulder a handful of carries per game.
Gurley probably wouldn’t function as a third-down pass catcher in Houston, but he would most likely take some carries on first and second downs. This would definitely be a boost for the Texans, as utilizing a committee could be helpful for both Gurley and Johnson’s yards-per-carry. This, in turn, would help open up Houston’s passing game, which would need a huge boost assuming the Texans trade away star quarterback Deshaun Watson. As mentioned before, Gurley is not an expensive free agent, and signing him could help take some pressure off of the rest of the offense.
Green Bay Packers
The Packers aren’t likely to be Gurley’s destination if Aaron Jones and/or Jamaal Williams re-sign. However, if Green Bay lets them walk, they’ll be in need of running back depth to support new starter A.J. Dillon. Gurley could provide that depth, and he’d be in a low-pressure role with the Packers.
Gurley would be set up for potential success in an offense with Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams, and it’s possible that he becomes quite effective in a one-two punch with Dillon. The Packers like to use a committee approach at RB, so Gurley would presumably be locked into at least 6-8 touches per game, with potential for more if he plays well enough. These personnel upsides of the Packers as a team could entice Gurley into signing with them; Gurley to Green Bay has the potential to be both a team-friendly and player-friendly move.