We are now onto our third potential extension candidate for the Falcons, and this is one a lot of Georgia people will be excited about. The Falcons finally caved this offseason and signed a fan favorite from a school less than 100 miles down the road. However, talent has never been a problem for this young man, but injuries will determine whether he can be a long-term piece in Atlanta. If you missed the previous two installments of this series, click the links below.
Like clockwork, anytime a popular University of Georgia player is a possibility for the Falcons, our mentions are filled with reasons why they should go ahead and sign them. Most of the time that doesn’t mean anything (we had fans barking for Rodrigo Blankenship in the fourth round). The organization has been hesitant to bring in players that played their college ball in Athens, but that changed this offseason, as they signed one of the biggest stars from Georgia since the turn of the century.
Many Falcons/Georgia fans are still salty that Thomas Dimitroff passed up on Gurley in the 2015 Draft. Instead, they selected Vic Beasley 8th overall. But while Beasley may not have panned out like the organization had hoped, adding to the pass rush was a far greater need than a running back, especially one that was coming off a torn ACL. However, the Rams took Gurley 10th overall, and from the start of his rookie season, he established himself as one of the best backs in the NFL.
Gurley ran for over 1,100 yards and 10 TDs in his first year, but his incredible success didn’t come until the arrival of Sean McVay, who made him the focal point of the offense — both on the ground and through the air. In 2017 and 2018 combined, Gurley came just short of 4,000 yards from scrimmage and totaled 40 TDs, leading to back-to-back First-Team All-Pro selections. But unfortunately, that kind of success was short-lived.
By the end of the 2018 campaign, an arthritic knee became a problem for Gurley, something that doesn’t just go away over time. The Rams were forced to manage his workload, and last season, he carried the ball a career-low 223 times and was also a shell of himself in the receiving game, catching just 31 balls for 207 yards. The result was Los Angeles decided to eat over $7 million this offseason to release him, making him available for the Falcons, who signed him to a one-year contract worth up to $6 million.
For Atlanta, this was a significant risk, given that they only had limited cap space available. However, the reward could be even greater. The man who was once regarded as the best running back in the league is just 25-years-old, and when he’s healthy, he is still one of the most explosive players in football. The Falcons aren’t going to be relying on him to touch the ball north of 300 times. They are a pass-first offense with a loaded running back room to take some of the pressure off of him. If he can prove healthy and offers around 250 explosive touches, there’s the potential for him to earn a multi-year contract. The days of him making $15+ million per season are long gone, but this doesn’t have to be the end of the road for Gurley, who is looking to prove something in his first year with the Falcons.