Where will free agent Todd Gurley sign?
By: Andy Martinez
After a one-year stint with the Atlanta Falcons, Todd Gurley is once again on the market with no takers in sight seemingly. Truth be told, it is simply because the former 2017 ‘Offensive Player of the Year’ just isn’t what he used to be.
Last season, Gurley rushed the ball 195 times for 678 yards, averaging only 3.5 yards per carry. It is also worth noting that he failed to hit double-digit touchdowns on the year, making a strong case for the 2020 season being the worst of his career.
However, Atlanta is not to blame for Todd Gurley’s dip in production last year. If we date back to his glory days in Los Angeles, it had been reported that Gurley was diagnosed with an ‘arthritic component’ in his left knee. Three years later, despite efforts to reduce his workload throughout the season, Gurley’s durability and injury issues continue to be a burden on his NFL career.
Having said that, which two teams can afford to bring in Todd Gurley for the upcoming season?
New York Jets
The Jets are officially in full rebuild mode under the new regime of Robert Saleh. With the team having plenty of positional needs prior to the season, their Draft Day should be a busy one as they try filling starting roles with the first few rounds. However, I do not anticipate the Jets spending an early round pick on a running back this year. After Le’Veon Bell’s dramatic departure from New York, the Jets front office will surely think twice before investing big again at the running back position.
If the Jets did, however, decide to go for a running back with a second-day selection in the draft, the team would still be left with a backfield that lacks maturity and experience. Pairing that with a new system similar to Kyle Shannahan’s that expects plenty from its running backs would not make for a smooth sailing, especially with a rookie quarterback running the show.
For that very reason, Todd Gurley and the Jets would be perfect for each other this season. A one-year deal at market price would be smart investing for the Jets, especially with none of the current backs making anything past a million dollars this upcoming season.
Kansas City Chiefs
Yes, I know, a jump from the Jets to the Chiefs is a dramatic one. But luckily for Todd Gurley, the Chiefs might be one of few teams that could be in desperate need of his services this upcoming season.
For the Chiefs, drafting Clyde Edwards-Helaire last year didn’t exactly pan out how they had hoped. After an incredible NFL debut game, Edwards-Helaire struggled to hit his stride as the season progressed. Despite racking up 800 yards through the ground last season, the rookie running back’s play was erratic and inconsistent at times. In 7 of his 13 starts last season, CEH failed to rush for over 50 yards throughout the span of a single game. Not to mention the fact he only managed to find the endzone five times as the lead running back of one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL. It’s fair to say that Edward-Helaire’s rookie season turned out to be a bit of a disappointment.
So where does Gurley fit in the mix? After evaluating CEH’s rookie season, the Chiefs should be in the market for veteran back. Until Edwards-Helaire is ready to carry the load as a cowbell back, the more appropriate approach for the Chiefs would be running back by committee.
Unlike LeVeon Bell, Gurley’s running style is far more punishing and comparable to CEH’s. This would allow Andy Reid more flexibility with his play-calling and limit the offense’s predictability.
But, there is a catch. Kansas City is running tight on cap space. Striking a deal between the two would likely mean Gurley settling for a more team-friendly contract. Taking a pay cut is a lot easier with a Super Bowl ring at stake.
Unfortunately for Todd Gurley, many teams around the league have already filled their need for a veteran running back. Those who have not, will likely turn to the draft for a younger and cheaper option.
Here is the thing, Todd Gurley isn’t a bad running back, he’s just not the feature back he used to be. In the right scheme with the right opportunities, Todd Gurley could really shine. It’s only a matter of who he plays for and at what price.
Make no mistake, teams will come calling after the draft. It will ultimately be up to him what role he decides to take up in the next chapter of his NFL career.