Rams release RB Todd Gurley, LB Clay Matthews

Rams release RB Todd Gurley, LB Clay Matthews

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – Faced with a challenging salary-cap situation, the Los Angeles Rams have released running back Todd Gurley and linebacker Clay Matthews, the team announced Thursday.

The Rams made Gurley, the 2017 NFL Offensive Player of the Year, the highest-paid running back in NFL history before the 2018 season – awarding him a four-year, $60 million extension that included $45 million in guarantees. At the time of the extension, Gurley had two seasons remaining on his rookie contract.

The release is accompanied by a heavy cost.

The Rams released Gurley with a post-June 1 designation, a source told ESPN’s Field Yates. That means the Rams will spread the dead-money cap charges ($11.75 million) over two seasons. The team will also see $5.5 million in cap savings that becomes available on June 2.

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The Rams’ salary-cap issues were created, in part, by decisions over the past 20 months to extend megadeals to Gurley, quarterback Jared Goff, defensive tackle Aaron Donald and receiver Brandin Cooks, who also has been among players discussed in trade talks.

Cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman also has been released this offseason.

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The decision to release Gurley, who turns 26 in August, coincides with a rebranding effort ahead of the Rams’ opening of the 2020 season in SoFi Stadium, and what the team hopes will be a bounce back from a disappointing 9-7 season that left it out of the playoffs following a Super Bowl run in 2018.

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Gurley had been the face of the franchise since his selection with the 10th overall pick in 2015, and his 58 rushing touchdowns were tied with Marshall Faulk for most in franchise history. It had grown increasingly apparent by the end of last season, however, that the relationship between the Rams and Gurley had soured.

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Gurley’s usage last season was down from 2018, when he rushed for 1,251 yards and scored a league-high 21 touchdowns. Questions about the health of his left knee persist.

He was sidelined for the final two games of the 2018 regular season because of his knee, which was surgically repaired when he played at Georgia. He returned in a divisional-round win over the Dallas Cowboys and, even as he shared carries with C.J. Anderson, rushed for 115 yards and a touchdown.

However, following his performance against the Cowboys, Gurley never returned to form.

Gurley had 13 total yards, the fewest of his career, as he watched mostly from the sideline as the Rams defeated the New Orleans Saints in the NFC Championship Game. Then he played a minimal role, rushing for only 35 yards, in a loss to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LIII.

Following the season, questions continued about Gurley’s health and his lack of production in the playoffs.

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The situation became increasingly muddied during the 2019 season.

Gurley and the Rams remained adamant that his knee was fine, but his touches declined and he shared the load with backups Malcolm Brown and Darrell Henderson. Eventually, Rams coach Sean McVay called himself an idiot for not giving Gurley more touches.

When asked about his coach’s remarks, Gurley did not disagree.

After the season, in which Gurley rushed for a career-low 857 yards, it became increasingly apparent the Rams might move on from their star running back after they fired running backs coach Skip Peete, who was a holdover from former coach Jeff Fisher’s staff on Gurley’s recommendation and has since taken over as the running backs coach for the Cowboys.

Overall, in five seasons with the Rams, Gurley rushed for 5,404 yards on 1,265 carries – an average of 4.3 yards per carry – and has 70 total touchdowns. He has caught 218 passes for another 2,090 yards.

Gurley’s departure leaves the Rams with Brown and Henderson.

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Last season, Brown rushed for a career-high 255 yards and five touchdowns on 69 carries. Henderson, a rookie out of Memphis, was hampered by injuries. He rushed for 147 yards on 39 carries.

Matthews, a six-time Pro Bowl selection, joined the Rams last season after a 10-year stint with the Green Bay Packers. He was due to earn a $2 million roster bonus at 1 p.m. PT if he remained on the roster. His release creates $3.75 million in salary-cap space.

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The Rams signed Matthews during free agency last year to a two-year contract worth up to $9.25 million.

Matthews played 13 games last season and had eight sacks, his most since 2014. He was sidelined for three games after suffering a broken jaw in Week 5 against the Seahawks.