I somewhere saw a headline yesterday referring to Todd Gurley’s contract that made reference to the fact that the Los Angeles Rams were motivated to get a deal done with their running back before Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell is able to sign a new deal of his own before he hits the open market in about eight months.
When trying to find it, I failed, but the point is obvious. Of course they were motivated to do it. But they needed a willing partner in order to complete the deal, and they found that Gurley, like Brandin Cooks, was quite ready to play ball.
Both sides made gains and sacrifices in the exchange. The Rams are giving Gurley money now that they wouldn’t have had to if they so chose. The running back was already still under contract for two more years, and even if that deal had played out, the franchise tag would still have figured to be a viable option in 2020.
As for Gurley, he is forfeiting the opportunity to become a free agent until 2024, at which point he will have nine seasons under his belt and he would be heading into his age-30 season. This is his cash-in contract now, and he is the guinea pig for the new running back market.
Not that he’s complaining. In forfeiting free agency, he gets paid early, and paid handsomely in relation to the rest of the position at the time of signing. He is reportedly receiving a $20 million signing bonus. He gets that money now. Oh, and his base salary for 2018 is only about $2.3 million. Assuming the report is correct, now he gets $20 million thrown on top of that, making roughly double what he otherwise would have made over the next two years, including the fifth-year option.
As mentioned at the top of the article, there are obvious advantages for the Rams as well. For one thing, they got the first jump on the market. They already knew where the market was coming based on the offer that the Steelers gave Bell. They used that number and their leverage to ink Gurley in advance.
It’s similar to how the Steelers and the New England Patriots treated Antonio Brown and Rob Gronkowski, respectively. Both of them signed long-term contracts after two seasons back in 2012. They looked like a gamble at the time, but both proved to be bargains, to say the least. If you know what you have, sometimes it pays in the long run to foot the bill upfront.
Additionally, with most of the committed money being in the future, they get to have a more balanced distribution pattern. Assuming the $20 million signing bonus, that figure gets divided over five years at $4 million apiece.
Effectively, they will only be paying Gurley $52 million during his actual extension, which begins in 2020, based on the salary cap because $8 million of the signing bonus will have already been accounted for over the next two years. So while his new-money extension earns him $15 million, the Rams will only average $13 million per season in cost by fronting $8 million in cap and $20 million in cash.