He reached paydirt more often than any NFL player last season, scoring a league-leading 19 touchdowns for a revitalized Rams franchise that is suddenly in the Super Bowl conversation.
On Tuesday, running back Todd Gurley was rewarded for his efforts — and his potential.
The Rams and Gurley, the reigning NFL offensive player of the year, agreed on a four-year contract extension that will make him the league’s highest-paid player at his position, the team announced Tuesday.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but the extension through the 2023 season includes $45 million in guarantees and could be worth as much as $60 million, a person with knowledge of the situation said.
Gurley, 23, amassed more than 2,000 yards from scrimmage last season as the Rams finished 11-5 and won the NFC West under first-year coach Sean McVay.
“What a special player he is,” McVay said during a news conference at UC Irvine. “I think last year’s production didn’t really reflect the value he provides because he did such a great job, but he’s so much more than that to our team.
“The way that he competes in [pass] protection, and the way that he works and the way that rubs off on his teammates.”
Gurley, the 10th player chosen in the 2016 draft, has a salary-cap number of $4.4 million this season in the fourth year of his rookie contract.
He was not due to arrive at training camp until Wednesday, a team official said, but teammates congratulated him on the new deal.
“No one deserves it more…congrats @TG3II !!” quarterback Jared Goff tweeted.
“Earned every penny !! Congrats my brother !! @TG3II !!” Pro Bowl kick returner Pharoh Cooper tweeted.
Every player wants to get to Gurley’s “level” of accomplishment, second-year linebacker Samson Ebukam said.
“He earned all of that,” Ebukam said. “You can see what he did last year and he’s going to do the same thing again this year.”
Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell and Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson, who stand to benefit from Gurley’s deal, also were among those tweeting congratulatory messages.
The Rams approached Gurley’s representatives about an extension during the spring “to get ahead of the curve,” general manager Les Snead said.
“It’s not only Todd but a lot of other guys we want to make Rams for a long time and be a part of the core that we’re building here,” Snead said.
Gurley is the second Rams player to receive a lucrative extension in the last week.
Receiver Brandin Cooks, acquired in an offseason trade with the New England Patriots, signed a five-year extension that could be worth $80 million.
Cooks’ and Gurley’s deals raise obvious questions about the status of defensive tackle Aaron Donald,
The reigning NFL defensive player of the year is not expected to arrive for the first workout of training camp Thursday unless he has a mega-extension from the Rams. He is entering his fifth season and is scheduled to earn about $6.9 million.
“Each situation is different,” Snead said regarding the pace of negotiations. “Different players, different agents. … You work on everything simultaneously but you really don’t know when you’re going to get something done or not because it’s case by case.”
Snead said the Rams are continuing to try to reach agreement with Donald.
“Aaron’s a big part of who we are, where we want to go,” Snead said, noting that there was still time to get a deal done before the first workout.
Frustrated Rams fans on social media have not been shy about posting “pay the man” messages in regard to Donald.
“That’s what we’re trying to do,” Snead said. “But I understand in this day and age, with social media and tweets and all that, it’s a little more complicated than that. But I definitely agree with the fans.
“We want to definitely try to pay Aaron what he’s deserved and make him a Ram a long time.”
McVay said defensive tackle Dominique Easley (knee) and rookie linebacker Ogbonnia Okoronkwo (foot) would start camp on the physically-unable-to-perform list. … The Rams signed receivers Aaron Lacombe, Khadarel Lott and JoJo Natson and defensive lineman Ryan Davis. They waived receivers Ricky Jeune and LaQuvionte Gonzalez and placed offensive lineman Jeremiah Kolone on the non-football injury list.
Follow Gary Klein on Twitter @latimesklein
4:40 p.m.: This article was updated with additional reporting.
12:15 p.m.: This article was updated with additional reporting.
This article was originally published at 11:25 a.m.