FRISCO - There is a great argument to be made that NFL teams shouldn't overvalue great running backs and shouldn't plan on giving them massive second contracts. One reason this argument is in vogue? The Dallas Cowboys successfully made it when they said goodbye to 2015 NFL rushing champ DeMarco Murray, all because their in-house study showed that heavy-lifting star runners fall off a cliff right at age 27.
That's where DeMarco was and Dallas was right. That's not yet where Todd Gurley is - he's 25 - but just two seasons after giving him the richest contract for a running back in NFL history (billed as a total six-year deal worth $57.5 million), the Los Angeles Rams are releasing Gurley.
This wasn't their original plan; the contract is structured to have escapability after the 2021 season. But Gurley has some arthritic problems that are apparently chronic, and cutting him today spares the Rams from having to pay him an additional $10.5 million that was literally due today.
So he's no longer "Rams trade fodder''; he's free to explore a fresh start elsewhere.
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And now back to the Cowboys, who a year ago followed up the Gurley deal with a monster contract of their own with holdout Ezekiel Elliott, who landed - on paper - an extension totaling six years and $90 million. That big number blew away Gurley's ...
But it's not real.
The Zeke escape hatch comes after four years of this deal, and when Dallas says goodbye to him then, following the 2022 season, it will have paid him $50 million for the four years, not $90 million.
Did Dallas learn a lesson of frugality here to match the two teams that went to last year's Super Bowl, the Chiefs and the Niners, neither of them having bothered to pay their running backs? No, not to that degree.
But the Rams needed "escapability'' with Gurley. If Zeke lasts three more years, the Cowboys will have it with him. And the lesson: Todd Gurley and Ezekiel Elliott are two of the greatest running backs of their time ... but their time doesn't last very long.