Should Arthur Smith consider bringing Todd Gurley back?

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Last year, as we all know, the Falcons signed running back Todd Gurley to a one-year contract worth over $5 million — a deal he did not live up to. However, Dirk Koetter’s inability or unwillingness to run the football also had something to do with Gurley’s ineffectiveness. With a new coach in the fold — one that emphasizes the run-game — does it make any sense to give Gurley a second opportunity?

Arthur Smith’s New Offense

Arthur Smith’s famed offense needs to run the ball to reach its full potential. This season, Gurley carried the rock 195 times for 678 yards and 9 TDs. He averaged 3.5 yards per play but began to lose his job as the year waned. Gurley is an average-sized back with average stats. The alternatives (already on the roster) are Brian Hill and Ito Smith.

Brian Hill

Brian Hill is a much younger back that is nearly identical in size to Gurley. He has three seasons of experience and boasts some impressive numbers. This past season, Hill amassed 100 carries for 465 yards and one TD — good for 4.7 yards per carry. Additionally, he was much cheaper; however, he is also a free agent. With Ito Smith (a smaller, more agile back) as RB2, there is a case to be made that Hill was the best running back on the roster last season, and perhaps he could be brought back for less. 

Draftable RBs

Aside from the HC/GM conversation, Falcons’ Twitter has been flooded with draft speculation. One common take is that Atlanta should trade down, bypassing a new QB to have more picks. By doing this, they could have their pick of the litter regarding running backs, potentially targeting Travis Etienne, Najee Harris, or Chuba Hubbard. Any of these options would come at a relatively low cost with nearly unlimited potential for a new head coach like Arthur Smith.

Atlanta could also wait to draft a new running back, selecting multiple in the later rounds. Our own Alex Lord talked about this earlier in the offseason, and he was pretty adamant that this was the best direction for the Falcons. So sure, if a back like Etienne or Harris happens to be available in the second round, it might make sense to scoop them up. However, the Falcons have too many holes, especially defensively, to waste a first-round selection on a running back. 

Takeaway

Ultimately the decision will fall to Arthur Smith and the new GM. If Smith sees enough potential to reach out to the former Offensive Player of the Year (Gurley), they may strike another short deal with the back. He shouldn’t cost more than a couple million after his underwhelming 2020 season. However, the draft appears to be where the Falcons will likely find Smith some new toys in the backfield.

 

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