Last year, the football world witnessed Todd Gurley transform from arguably the best running back in the game to just another guy overnight, with some severe questions regarding his knee lingering ahead of him. In 2017 and 2018 combined, Gurley combined for nearly 4,000 scrimmage yards and a ridiculous 40 TDs. Last year, he barely eclipsed 1,000 yards from scrimmage, while seeing a considerable drop off in his touches per game thanks to developing arthritis in his knee. And almost unthinkably two years ago, the Rams decided to part ways with the former All-Pro running back, even though it cost them a hell of a lot of money to do so.
As a free agent, there was little doubt in Gurley’s mind where he wanted to land. The former Georgia Bulldog eyed a return home, and the Falcons just so happened to have an opening following the release of Devonta Freeman. The two sides ended up coming to a one-year deal worth somewhere around $5-6 million, setting the table for what could be one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL again, if Gurley can stay healthy. Last week, as a part of Jay Glazer’s NFL mailbag, the longtime NFL analyst provided some insight on just how realistic that may be. Here’s an excerpt of what he had to say (subscription required to view):
The knee has issues. It didn’t suddenly become perfect overnight. There are some guys like Matt Forte who had bone on bone in a knee but kept playing for years. Others, however, can’t. (Just a side note and I know this question is about Gurley, but I just have to throw it out there: Forte is as much of a badass as anyone who has played in the NFL. It’s unreal that he was able to play for so long with that knee as gnarly as it was. He just dealt with it at a very high level.)
The problem with Gurley is you’re not sure when the knee is going to flare up. Certain days, it’s great. Certain days, it’s not. You just don’t know.
Glazer’s comments are along the lines of what we already knew. Gurley’s knee has issues that are never going to go away. It’s all about managing his workload and trying to keep him as comfortable as possible. Some games, the Falcons may be able to feed him 20-25 times; some games he may only be suitable for 10-15 carries. It’s going to be a fluid situation all year and for the rest of his career, but even with all the problems he had last season, he was still able to rush the ball 226 times and was targeted 49 times in the passing game. To put that in perspective, Devonta Freeman has not had over 200 carries since 2016, when he was last a Pro-Bowler.
The Gurley signing comes with some well-known risk, but he’s only missed four games over the last three seasons. Comparatively, Freeman missed 18 over those same years. It’s all about managing the pain and attempting to keep him healthy for the stretch run at the end. Bringing in a motivated Todd Gurley on a manageable one-year deal is well worth the risk, in my opinion.