Two years ago, the Los Angeles Rams reset the market when they signed running back Todd Gurley to a record four-year, $57 million deal with $45 million guaranteed.
On Thursday, the Rams made history in another way when they released the 25-year-old and took a $20.15 million dead cap hit, second-highest in NFL history. Unable to find a trade partner and unwilling to pay Gurley an extra $10.5 million that was due at 4 p.m. ET, Los Angeles decided Gurley was no longer worth his massive contract.
Injuries and ineffectiveness leave Gurley as a shadow of the former Offensive Player of the Year who surpassed 2,000 total yards in 2017, but he's still an impressive running back who jumps to the top of the free-agent pool at his position. Melvin Gordon, Devonta Freeman, and Carlos Hyde have all been productive lately but will not command nearly as much money.
Finding a fit for Gurley could be tough now that teams are several days into free agency. The Houston Texans were previously in the market for a running back but instead made a head-scratching swap of DeAndre Hopkins for David Johnson. The Miami Dolphins also signed Jordan Howard and committed $135 million guaranteed to five other players in free agency.
Still, there are plenty of teams who could be a good fit for Gurley. Here's a look at five of his top options:
Can you smell a homecoming? Gurley burst onto the scene as a star running back at Georgia, and he could be a perfect fit on the Falcons after they released Devonta Freeman. Although Freeman made Pro Bowls in 2015 and '16, he hasn't surpassed the 1,000-yard rushing mark since then, so Gurley would be a massive upgrade.
The Falcons have finished 7-9 each of the last two seasons, but in a topsy-turvy NFC South, Gurley could quickly make them playoff contenders or at least an offensive powerhouse. The Falcons were first in scoring offense and second in total offense during their 2016 Super Bowl run, and they could put together an even more impressive attack with Gurley in the backfield.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Staying in the NFC South, Tampa Bay has already had a big enough offseason by landing Tom Brady, but Gurley would be quite the cherry on top. With Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and O.J. Howard already on the roster, this would give head coach Bruce Arians a complete offense to work with.
The Buccaneers haven't had a 1,000-yard rusher since Doug Martin in 2015, and the in-house options aren't too promising if they stay put. Ronald Jones II ran for 183 yards in his final two games of the season but is still averaging under four yards per carry for his career, and Peyton Barber is nothing more than a serviceable backup.
The Colts have had cap space to burn for several offseasons now and have started using some of it by signing Philip Rivers and trading for and then extending DeForest Buckner. But after passing on Le'Veon Bell last offseason, they are still in need of a running back to round out their offense.
Indy does have Marlon Mack, who has rushed for 1,999 yards over the past two seasons, but he may be a good candidate to split the carries with Gurley. The Colts' receiving corps is solid with T.Y. Hilton, Zach Pascal, and Parris Campbell, but they could use a running back like Gurley who could supplement their passing attack.
If Gurley is looking to play for a contender, the Eagles may be one of his best options. They aren't Super Bowl heavyweights anymore, but no other team on this list has a quarterback set up for long-term success like Philly does with Carson Wentz. Plus, the team entered the offseason with the seventh-most cap space in the league and has stayed relatively quiet until trading for Darius Slay, so they have the capacity to pull off another big move.
The Eagles have to be happy with running back Miles Sanders' rookie year, and he is capable of starting on his own. But there isn't much depth behind him with Jordan Howard's departure, and Sanders' small salary ($4.4 million total over the next three years) makes it easier to swallow Gurley's sizeable contract demands.
Washington was probably hoping that Derrius Guice would emerge as a bell-cow back, but several knee injuries have limited him to five total games in his first two seasons. He still has the potential to become a Pro Bowl-caliber back, but that's probably years away, whereas Gurley can help immediately.
Owner Dan Snyder is known for making splashy moves, so signing Gurley could make sense on some level. The team did extend Adrian Peterson last March, although he'd only have $750,000 in dead cap space if he didn't make the team.