Les Snead does not regret it.
“We all wish the partnership could’ve lasted longer,” the Rams’ general manager said Monday in his first news conference since the team cut Gurley last month. “But from the standpoint of Todd earning that contract, no, he did earn that. I think that showed up in the production, in how he helped us win.”
On Monday, the Atlanta Falcons formally announced they had agreed to a one-year contract with Gurley. The deal reportedly is worth $6 million, but Gurley still must take a physical, during which the Falcons are expected to examine the surgically repaired left knee that hampered Gurley’s performance late in the 2018 season and lingered in 2019.
Snead and coach Sean McVay are looking ahead to the 2020 season and life after Gurley. But in separate video news conferences with reporters from their homes Monday, each fielded multiple questions about the star running back and the factors that led to his departure.
Neither McVay nor Snead would reveal what Snead described as “the intimate details” of all that went into the decision to part ways with a player who was the 2017 NFL offensive player of the year.
“To say that one thing goes into that wouldn’t be accurate,” McVay said. “I mean, these are conversations that require a lot of different directions and kind of projections based on where we’re at, where we want to be not only this year but years from now.”
The Rams finished a disappointing 2019 season overwrought with large contracts. Gurley, wide receiver Brandin Cooks, defensive lineman Aaron Donald and quarterback Jared Goff all had huge deals. The Rams also were looking at a landscape that included an upcoming megadeal for cornerback Jalen Ramsey and possible extensions for players such as receiver Cooper Kupp and safety John Johnson, among others.
By cutting Gurley, who rushed for a career-low 857 yards last season, they absorbed a $20.15-million dead cap hit.
“I don’t think it’s a salary cap issue, but in the puzzle … in putting together your short-term and long-term vision of trying to consistently contend, what you pay players comes into play,” Snead said. “Obviously, how players produce comes into play.”
Could McVay have imagined two years ago that he would be moving forward without Gurley?
“To say if that was something that I think you could have ever anticipated, I think that the answer is no, you don’t,” McVay said. “But what you do learn is that there’s a, you know, things are ever-changing and your ability to adjust and adapt and be able to react accordingly to what we feel like is best is the most important thing, and, you know, that’s where we’re at.”
Veteran backup Malcolm Brown and second-year pro Darrell Henderson are on track to replace Gurley by committee as the Rams attempt to rebound from a 9-7 finish that left them out of the playoffs for the first time under McVay.
The Rams let linebacker Cory Littleton, edge rusher Dante Fowler and several other defensive players leave as free agents. They retained offensive linemen Andrew Whitworth and Austin Blythe and also re-signed Michael Brockers after the defensive lineman’s three-year, $30-million deal with the Baltimore Ravens fell through because of questions about his left ankle.
“I always wanted to be back with the Rams,” Brockers said during a video conference. “I always wanted to stay here, so for me that was just a blessing.”
The Rams correctly had identified Floyd as a possible salary cap casualty for the Chicago Bears, and they moved quickly when Fowler agreed to terms with the Falcons. They signed the 25-year old Robinson, ostensibly to replace Brockers.
“You had a younger player, not necessarily an older player, that we could grow with and was able to fit Brandon’s scheme,” Snead said, adding that Brockers’ availability after the Ravens deal fell through made him “a bonus baby.”
The Rams still have several positions to fill, including kicker. The Rams let Greg Zuerlein sign a free-agent contract with the Dallas Cowboys.
“I would be lying if I said it wasn’t a concern,” Snead said.
Snead and McVay are preparing for what will be a “virtual” NFL draft April 23-25. The Rams are still working out their logistics in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“There’s nobody that, to my knowledge, is in a bad spot right now,” McVay said. “Everyone is feeling good. Their families are healthy, and we’re really just doing everything we can to be sound in how we follow the guidelines.”