The Atlanta Falcons are rolling the dice on former Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley in free agency. Was this risky move worth making for Atlanta?
One of Atlanta’s favorite Dawgs is coming home.
After spending the first five years of his NFL career out of the University of Georgia with the Los Angeles Rams, running back Todd Gurley has signed a one-year deal worth $5 million to suit up for the Atlanta Falcons. Though a native of Tarboro, North Carolina, Gurley is beloved in the state where he starred on the college gridiron for the Georgia Bulldogs.
Gurley was only on the market for about a day after being released by the Rams. He was due to make over $10 million had he not been released. Though Rams general manager Les Snead tried to put together a deal in place with his former Atlanta colleague Thomas Dimitroff, both parties were not able to complete a trade, resulting in Gurley’s release and a huge cap hit for the Rams.
At the peak of his powers, Gurley was the best running back in football. He is a three-time Pro Bowler, a two-time First-Team All-Pro, the 2015 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year and the 2017 AP Offensive Player of the Year. Not bad for a guy coming off a career-ending knee injury in his final game in college vs. the cross-divisional rival Auburn Tigers. Georgia still won that game.
Though Gurley has regressed significantly in his last 16 or so games, was this move worth the risk for the Atlanta Falcons? Could this be one of their better short-term free-agent signings in history or will this end up going the way of Steven Jackson, the last great Rams running back who came aboard in Atlanta?
Because it is a one-year deal worth only $5 million, it absolutely 100 percent worth the risk for the Falcons to sign Gurley. First off, it’s only for a single season. If he continues to be a shell of himself, it’s only a $5 million mistake. It’s less than a fourth of the dead-cap hit the Rams have after cutting him at $20.15 million.
Second, even in his two down years, Gurley still rushed for over 850 yards in 2016 and 2019. Atlanta hasn’t had a 1,000-yard rusher since 2016 when the Dirty Birds went to the Super Bowl. The guy Gurley is replacing in Devonta Freeman was the last guy to do it and hasn’t broken 800 yards in a year on the ground since 2017. Atlanta will be getting better production of out Gurley.
Third, Atlanta can still draft a running back with one of their three top-100 picks. The Falcons’ three most notable rushers of the last decade went undrafted out of Northern Illinois (Michael Turner), in the fourth round out of Florida State (Freeman) and in the third round out of Indiana (Tevin Coleman). Outside of the Jackson free agency signing in 2013, Dimitroff has done well here.
And finally, the Falcons needed to sign to not only fill a gaping hole on their offense, but to prevent him from signing with the division rival Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Though Tampa Bay was only a fringe candidate to get Gurley, as the Miami Dolphins were the other team seriously looking at him, could you imagine how Falcons fans would feel if he starred next to Tom Brady in 2020?
This is a move that should excite both Dirty Bird Nation and Dawg Nation alike. Many Falcons fans are also Bulldog fans, so he becomes an immediate hometown hero in the Empire State of the South. He also is reunited with his former Rams teammate Dante Fowler Jr., who just signed a three-year with the Falcons. If Dawgs and Gators can get along and work together, so can we.