(UPDATE – Todd Gurley agreed to sign a one-year deal with the Atlanta Falcons early Friday morning. The contract is reported to be worth up to $5 million.)
Following one of the more stunning moves of the week in NFL free agency — the Rams’ decision Thursday to cut running back Todd Gurley with four years left on his contract — came the next logical question.
Would the Seahawks be interested in signing a player who has been one of the more dynamic offensive playmakers in the NFL the last five seasons and is still just 25 years old?
Early buzz around the league was that the Seahawks almost certainly will be, with Ian Rapoport of NFL Network immediately pegging the Seahawks as a team “to watch” and a “logical destination” in regards to Gurley’s future.
What we also know is that the Seahawks have long thought favorably of Gurley. GM John Schneider famously said during his pregame radio show in 2015 that the Seahawks had him rated as the top player on their board for the draft that year. (Gurley ended up going 10th to the Rams).
What we also know is that Gurley is going to sign for a lot less than he had been due to make with the Rams, who released him minutes before $10.5 million in his contract would have become fully guaranteed, and following a season when he had a career-low 857 yards.
But early indications were that Gurley wasn’t going to take the first cheap deal that comes his way.
The coronavirus outbreak means the NFL is prohibiting players and team officials from travel, meaning a player cannot take a physical at a team facility.
Contracts can be completed with physicals pending, and ESPN reported Thursday that teams are adding clauses into contracts with the ability to void bonuses if a player signs and fails a physical.
Not only did the Seahawks like Gurley coming out of college, but they have also seen the best of him in the NFL.
He has scored 11 touchdowns against the Seahawks in his career — three more than against any other team — and has had two games with 120 or more yards rushing during a time when the Seahawks haven’t surrendered 100-yard rushing games all that often.
He’s set to turn 26 in August, and he’s only 13 months older than Seattle’s 2019 first-round pick, defensive end L.J. Collier.
The Seahawks also have an uncertain running-back situation that led coach Pete Carroll to say at the NFL combine last month that the team would definitely look to add to the position in the offseason with Travis Homer the only player under contract who does not have an injury issue.
Chris Carson is entering the final year of his rookie deal but is coming off a fractured hip. While he is reportedly on track to be ready for the start of the regular season (he is letting the injury heal without surgery) he likely won’t do much of anything until the season begins.
Rashaad Penny, the Seahawks’ first-round pick in 2018, suffered an ACL injury against the Rams on Dec. 8, and it’s uncertain if he’ll be ready for the start of the regular season.
The Seahawks re-signed Marshawn Lynch and Robert Turbin to fill in after the loss of Carson and Penny, but each are free agents. With Lynch, any return almost certainly won’t happen until into, or after, training camp or into the regular season.
While the team hasn’t ruled out Lynch returning, that would hardly mitigate wanting to go after someone like Gurley, whose receiving abilities — 218 receptions in five years with a high of 64 in 2017 — have always been one of his greatest assets.
But the question will be what kind of market develops for Gurley. Given the Seahawks’ need to upgrade the defensive line they are not going to want to spend a lot on a running back.
Gurley will take a huge pay cut. The four-year, $57.5 million deal he got from the Rams in 2018 is going to be used as more evidence for why signing running backs to huge deals is a bad idea.
Because he made so much from the Rams (he’s pocketed roughly $39 million), Gurley could be amenable to a fairly team-friendly deal with the right team. He also is already going to make some decent money this year, still owed $7.55 million of his bonus this year. But $2.5 million of that is subject to offsets, meaning unless he makes more than that from a new team he’s essentially playing for free.
A few others who could be interested mentioned prominently early on included the Saints and Tampa Bay, the latter of which would apparently love to team him with Tom Brady and a top-flight receiving corps.
Adam Schefter of ESPN reported that the Falcons and Dolphins had shown interest in trading for Gurley in recent weeks, and with the Falcons having just released Devonta Freeman they have a logical need (as well as being near where Gurley played in college at Georgia).
But expect the Seahawks to get in the hunt and see what happens.