In a speculative piece offering a "bold prediction" from all 32 of ESPN.com's team beat writers, Lindsey Thiry offered up the following: "In a pinch to find space under the salary cap, the Rams will attempt to trade running back Todd Gurley
Again, this is a speculative piece, but apparently it's not without some merit.
At the very least, we begin another offseason the way the last one finished, with questions about Gurley.
As NFL.com's Kevin Patra noted, the running back is coming off career-lows in rushing yards (857) and attempts (223) and offered much less in the passing game than we'd been accustomed to under Sean McVay.
The year did little to wipe away questions about the long-term health of the 25-year-old's lingering left knee injury.
Two years into his new contract that included a $21 million signing bonus and $45 million in guarantees, the Rams have some questions to deal with on what now looks like an albatross deal.
NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported Thursday that the L.A. brass plans to meet with Gurley before the next set of guarantees are locked in.
"From what I am told, what the Rams want to do -- and what coach Sean McVay specifically wants to do -- is sit down with Gurley before any decision was made," Rapoport said. "So that's probably going to happen before they decide how are they going to proceed with someone who at times has been the best running back in the NFL.
"Obviously this is not a simple decision. Cutting him just to save cash would be something that, while theoretically possible, cap-wise would be extremely difficult, more than $10M in a salary-cap hit just for releasing him and if they did it before June 1 it would be astronomical. Trading him would be more possible, obviously they would still be stuck with some of the cap hit but it would alleviate some of the cash issues. Either way whatever decision they make on Todd Gurley
would probably have to be before the middle of March. That's when more than a $7 million roster bonus is due for him. A very expensive decision they have but considering what he played through, how much pain in the knee and how much of a focus has been on him, you can certainly understand why at least all options are on the table here."
According to Over The Cap, Gurley would count $25.65 million in dead money if cut outright now.
Even next offseason, the Rams would save just $4.8 million with $8.4 million in dead money.
Perhaps they could find a trade partner with excess cap space willing to take a flier on a great player who has dealt with injury issues (and the Rams would probably have to pay a pick to unload the deal). But, as NFL Network's Tom Pelissero pointed out, any trade would likely need to be made before the March roster bonus kicks in.
"That roster bonus is really a big factor here, $7.55 million that is fully guaranteed and due to Gurley on March 20 if he's still on the roster at that point," Pelissero said. "That is a hindrance in any potential trade talks because the new team presumably on paper would have to absorb that or the Rams would have to work out a deal to pay a portion of it. ... It's complicated because of where they are at in this Gurley contract the fact that there are still additional guarantees.
"And if he's still on the roster on Day 3 of the new league year (March 20) another $5 million roster bonus in 2021 becomes fully guaranteed, though that is subject to offset language."
It should be noted that Thiry conceded all the above in making her prediction, writing: "Whether L.A. can pull it off remains another question, given Gurley's massive contract as well as the uncertainty that continues to surround the long-term health of his surgically repaired left knee."
As Patra summed up, "Given Gurley's contract, his knee status and the Rams' seeming reluctance to use him as a workhorse this season, it's likely that L.A. will have to ride it out with the running back, and hope he returns to his 2018 form."
Fantasy owners could leverage the increased uncertainty into value in drafts this summer
. They'll also have to deal with the wider range of possible outcomes due to that uncertainty.
I'll be following along in coming weeks and months while keeping a close eye on developments that might offer us additional clues to help calculate the full range of possibilities Gurley will carry into 2020.