While the Pittsburgh Steelers made news for not coming to an agreement on a contract extension with star running back Le’Veon Bell, the Los Angeles Rams went all-in with their lead back.
Todd Gurley received a four-year extension, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. The deal will be worth as much as $60 million, will include $45 million guaranteed, and keep Gurley in Los Angeles for the next six seasons. It’s a good deal for the player, who gets a healthy chunk of change up front, and the team, which gets to retain its star back through the prime of his career.
The extension comes after Gurley put up an All-Pro season in his third year with the Rams. Gurley rushed for 1,305 yards and scored 13 times on the ground. And it’s not as if he was a one-trick pony, adding 64 catches and 788 receiving yards in Sean McVay’s innovative offense. Gurley’s 2,093 yards from scrimmage were an NFL best last season.
Gurley’s new contract could be the first in a wave of new contracts for stud running backs, which is something Jordan Howard and the Chicago Bears should keep a close eye on moving forward. Especially if the Bears can follow the Rams’ blueprint with Howard playing Gurley’s role as the team’s bell-cow back.
Much like Gurley’s first two seasons in the pros, Howard was essentially a non-factor in his team’s offensive passing attack. Gurley caught 64 passes for 515 yards and no touchdowns in 29 games while Jeff Fisher was the Rams’ head coach in 2015 and 2016. And because the Jeff Fisher-John Fox comparisons are truly inescapable, we’ll note that Howard caught 52 passes for 423 yards (and a touchdown!) in 31 games over the course of his first two seasons.
Last June, Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com wrote about the Rams getting creative with Gurley. McVay and Offensive Coordinator Matt LaFleur were moving Gurley all over offensive formations in an attempt to create and exploit mismatches with their ultra-talented back. By doing more than just using Gurley exclusively as a runner, the Rams received a career-year from their rusher, and their offense thrived. All the while, prized quarterback prospect Jared Goff took a major step in his development as he was able to lean on a strong, reliable running back who was more than just a rusher. What a concept!
Howard isn’t eligible for an extension until the NFL calendar flips to 2019. But if his work as a pass-catcher pays off with improvement on the field and a better showing on the stat sheet, it could result in a significant pay day and an extension in Chicago. At which point, Gurley’s contract will certainly be used as benchmark.