The Los Angeles Rams hit the reset button on the NFL’s running back market Tuesday by signing Todd Gurley to a four-year extension worth $60 million, of which $45 million is guaranteed, according to multiple reports.
After the money Gurley is already owed for the next two seasons, the deal makes him the highest-paid running back in per-year average salary. It also sets a new standard for the league’s other top rushers, including Pittsburgh’s Le’Veon Bell, Arizona’s David Johnson and Dallas’s Ezekiel Elliot.
Gurley, who is entering his fourth NFL season after rushing for a career-high 1,305 yards and 13 touchdowns last season, will be under contract until 2023.
In a league that has come to view running backs as expendable, the new agreement is mutually beneficial for Gurley and the Rams. The running back got a hefty raise — from $2.3 million per year in 2018 to $11.9 million per starting in 2020 — and Los Angeles secures one of the game’s top rushers in his prime.
Gurley could have waited until next offseason for a contract extension, but by then the price tag may have risen, with Bell expected to become an unrestricted free agent in 2019 and seeking a yearly average north of his franchise-tagged salary of about $14.5 million. Instead, the Rams locked up one of the league’s top offensive threats for a relative discount, although they gave the most money ever guaranteed to a running back to do it.
It’s a deal, while hailed by many around Los Angeles, that isn’t likely to be lauded by executives around the league, who just saw the value of running backs go up and a new benchmark set for guaranteed money to contend with in negotiations.
Bell, in the midst a holdout with the Steelers, took notice.
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