For several reasons, Atlanta fans were excited when Todd Gurley signed an affordable one-year contract to come back home last season. The experiment started pretty well, but it came to a screeching halt over the second half of the year. The former All-Pro running back became more of a short-yardage option, with Ito Smith taking over the primary ball-carrier duties.
Still, neither the Falcons nor Gurley have completely ruled out a return for the 2021 season. Gurley was asked last week if Arthur Smith’s new offense might lead him to consider coming back to Atlanta, in which he responded:
“You get excited about a coach that runs the ball which you know doesn’t happen very often,” Gurley said on NFL Network on Wednesday. “So you definitely get super excited about that. I definitely have to reach out to him and [Terry Fontenot] just to be able to talk to them to see what they’re thinking and just get a head start on the free agency thing.”
I’ll give Gurley some credit. For nine games, it looked like he still had something left in the tank, rushing for 584 yards and nine touchdowns on 159 carries — not too shabby for a running back with chronic arthritis in his knees, especially in a Dirk Koetter offense. Who knows what he might be capable of with Arthur Smith calling the shots. Those nine games alone should earn him a contract from someone this offseason. However, if Spotrac’s market value is correct, there’s no way the Falcons should be interested.
Spotrac has set Gurley’s market value at two years, $11 million, giving him an AAV of $5.5 million. They have Mark Ingram, Austin Ekeler, Tarik Cohen, and Giovani Bernard listed as comparable players. As much as I love Gurley, I would take all of those guys over him, and I don’t think I would give any of them — besides Ekeler because of his receiving ability — a multi-year contract with an AAV over $5 million.
There just aren’t many running backs in the league that turn out to be worth their second contracts. The best way to approach the position is to draft multiple of them, run them into the ground for 4-5 years, and then let them walk. It sounds cutthroat because it is. The NFL has always been a no-nonsense business, and the teams that can remove emotion from their decisions are often the ones that experience the most success. I would love to see what Gurley could do in Arthur Smith’s offense, but only if he’s willing to return on a one-year contract worth $2-3 million.
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