Earlier this week the Los Angeles Rams made headlines by re-signing one of the best players in the NFL to an extension that makes him the highest paid player at his position in the NFL. If you thought that Aaron Donald had finally ended his holdout, then you would be wrong. Todd Gurley signed a four year extension worth up to $60 million with $45 million guaranteed making him the richest running back in the league. What does this mean for the Rams and other backs in the league?
Los Angeles Rams
The Rams were super active in free agency, giving contracts to many veterans off the street and trading for players (Aquib Talib) who had already gotten their big money deal. Before this offseason, Los Angeles among the league leaders in cap availability projections for 2020 and 2021 with several free agents to lock up long term. They traded for Brandon Cooks and quickly gave him a five year $80 million extension before he took even a preseason snap. Now with Gurley’s new contract the dominos are starting to fall in place with Goff being the only difference maker on offense needing an extension in the near future.
The biggest question remaining is when will they work out a deal with Aaron Donald. The more cap space Los Angeles needs to allocate for new players and extensions, the less they have for the games most disruptive defensive tackle. Donald tops some pundits list as the top player in the league, regardless of position, and he expects to be paid as such. Reports have serviced that the Rams have offered him a deal that would make him the highest paid defensive player in the league but it hasn’t been enough to make him sign. Will the Gurley signing make it that much harder to get a Donald deal done?
The Steelers running back has asked for the past two years to become the highest paid running back in the league to no avail. Pittsburg has used the franchise tag twice now on the veteran back, making his salary for this year $14.5 million. The deadline for a long term deal for this season has passed, so Bell can either play on the tag or sit out the entire season. He has since said that his plan is to sit out all of training camp and then play in the regular season. He and his agent have come out and said that bell intends to leave Pittsburg in the next offseason.
Gurley’s contract will go a long way to set the bar for what a new team would need to pay Bell to get him off the free agent market. The contract Gurley signed was roughly $15 million annually so if Bell can continue the level of productivity he has enjoyed for most of his career then that $15 million could be the floor for a potential deal from a team with plenty of cap space.
Until last week, Freeman was the highest paid back in the league. The Atlanta back signed a contract last year for 5 years and $41.25 million dollars, but not all of it was guaranteed. His teammate Julio Jones just went through a holdout a month ago because he believed he was a more productive receiver than others who were making more money. Despite only being two years into his five year contract, the Falcons retooled his deal to give him more money. Does Freeman now follow suit and demand more money in the middle of his contract? Or is he too afraid of being usurped by Tevin Coleman to rock the boat?
Taken just 5 picks after Todd Gurley in the 2015 draft, Melvin Gordon is the next lead back in line to get a Gurley level contract extension. Gordon has been effective in his first three years with the Chargers, accumulating almost 4,000 all purpose yards and 24 touchdowns. He has certainly put up the production to warrant an extension, but the Chargers have been infamously stingy on contracts. There haven’t been talks yet between the two sides but Gordon will remain on his rookie deal for two more years, and then the team has the option to franchise tag him for two more years after that. Gordon was asked about Gurley’s contract on Saturday and said, “My time is coming. When our time comes for us as running backs to get paid, I’m sure we’ll be around the same number.”