Earlier this week, the Atlanta Falcons announced that they were cutting veteran running back Devonta Freeman. The move saved the team more than $3 million in cap space, but it also opened up a need at running back.
In what initially seemed to be unrelated news, the Los Angeles Rams made it clear that their star running back Todd Gurley was available for trade, however there were no takers. The Rams ultimately released Gurley on Thursday afternoon, and both Jeff Schultz of The Athletic and Adam Schefter of ESPN have reported that the Falcons have interest in the soon-to-be 26-year-old running back.
Todd Gurley available via trade. Falcons need RB and would love PR-boost that ex-UGA star provides. So there's interest. But team sources say they can't afford salary cap hit that Gurley trade brings. Gurley's health also an issue and physical difficult to sked. @TheAthleticATL https://t.co/MJxFk9X9UQ— Jeff Schultz (@JeffSchultzATL) March 19, 2020
When the Rams shopped RB Todd Gurley in recent weeks, the two teams that showed the most interest were the Miami Dolphins and Atlanta Falcons, per source.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 19, 2020
As Georgia Bulldogs fans are aware, Todd Gurley played collegiately at UGA where he totaled 3,285 rushing yards and 42 total touchdowns in three seasons. While with the Rams, Gurley has had a ton of success, rushing for at least 1,100 yards in three of his five seasons and totaling 70 touchdowns. From a production standpoint and given that he’s still pretty young, a move would seem like a no-brainer for a team with an RB need.
There’s two big reasons why the Falcons may not ultimately sign Gurley: money and health.
Prior to releasing Gurley, the Rams were on the hook for his costly contract, which would’ve prevented a potential trade with the Falcons. Now that Gurley is a free agent, and able to sign anywhere, the addition is more likely. Gurley would need to sign for a much more team friendly deal than he had in Los Angeles. The Falcons can’t afford to take him on at a high salary level, especially not after the acquisition of Dante Fowler.
There’s also Gurley’s health. Towards the end of the Rams’ 2018 season, Gurley’s workload suddenly slowed down and fans were largely unsure why. It turns out Gurley has an arthritic component to his knee which has caused the Rams to lessen his workload, which was noticeable throughout the 2019 season despite the Rams’ odd refusal to admit they were doing it.
This wouldn’t be the first time the Falcons added a Rams running back with questions at a decline phase, as they signed Steven Jackson in 2013 to a three-year deal. Jackson only played two years of the deal, in which he totaled 1,250 rushing yards in two seasons before being released in early 2015.
The Falcons currently have Ito Smith, Brian Hill, Qadree Ollison and Craig Reynolds on the offseason roster. Whether they make a move in free agency, such as adding Gurley or another free agent or wait until the 2020 NFL Draft, the need for another running back remains, and Gurley is available.