Rams release Gurley, Matthews

LOS ANGELES - The Rams said goodbye to running back Todd Gurley.

Gurley, a three-time Pro Bowl player who less than two years ago signed one of the largest contracts for a running back in NFL history, was cut Thursday, ending his five-year tenure with the team that drafted him in St. Louis and brought him to Los Angeles to become a star.

It was an unceremonious end for a player who was the NFL's 2015 offensive rookie of the year, the 2017 offensive player of the year, and a key component for a Rams team that made it to the playoffs in coach Sean McVay's first season in 2017 and the Super Bowl in 2018.

The Rams also released linebacker Clay Matthews, a person with knowledge of the situation said.

Gurley, 25, signed a $60 million contract before the 2018 season that included $45 million in guarantees. He had a salary-cap number of $17.3 million for the upcoming season and was due about $10.5 million in injury guarantees Friday, according to overthecap.com.

Gurley was once regarded as a marquee player for a franchise that returned to Los Angeles from St. Louis with intentions of making Gurley one of the top draws at new SoFi Stadium.

Now, he might play there with a visiting team.

During the run-up to and the after the start of the NFL's new league year on Wednesday, the Rams had tried to trade Gurley. But they apparently found no takers for a player whose huge contract, waning performance and balky left knee caused possible suitors to shy away.

Gurley carried a salary-cap number of $17.25 million in 2020, $13.2 million in 2021, $14.2 million in 2022 and $11.4 million in 2023, according to overthecap.com.

By releasing Gurley before June 1, the Rams will have a $20.15 million dead-cap hit, according to overthecap.com. But the Rams will save about $10 million over the next two years with him not on the roster.

Gurley's was one of several massive contracts that have pinched the Rams. Defensive lineman Aaron Donald, receiver Brandin Cooks and quarterback Jared Goff all have mega-deals and cornerback Jalen Ramsey is in line for another.

Gurley, the 10th pick in the 2015 draft, has rushed for 5,404 yards and 58 touchdowns. He also has caught 12 touchdown passes. He had his best season rushing in 2017, when he ran for a career-best 1,305 yards and 13 touchdowns. In 2018, he rushed for 1,253 yards and 17 touchdowns.

Last season, he rushed for only 857 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Gurley, who underwent major reconstructive surgery on the knee in 2014 while in college at Georgia, was sidelined or slowed because of knee issues late in the 2018 season, a condition that caused him to sit out the final two games of the regular season and slowed him in the NFC championship game and the Rams' 13-3 Super Bowl defeat by the New England Patriots.

In 2019, McVay attempted to manage Gurley's workload by giving Malcolm Brown and Darrell Henderson more carries. The strategy, combined with injuries suffered by the offensive line, did not work. A year after playing in the Super Bowl, the Rams finished 9-7 and missed the playoffs for the first time in McVay's three seasons.

Now the Rams will attempt to get back to the playoffs without one of the players they considered a cornerstone only two years ago.

"I would like to thank Todd for his many contributions to the Rams, on and off the field, since I have been here," McVay said in a statement released by the team. "He has meant a lot to my growth as a coach and leader and he will always be remembered as one of the all-time great Rams. I wish him nothing but the best."

Said general manager Les Snead, also in a statement: "When we drafted Todd in 2015, we knew he was going to be a one-of-a-kind talent that would create special moments on the football field for us. Todd did this by becoming one of the greatest competitors in this league, but more than that, he served as a great teammate to his fellow players and ambassador for our organization, and those traits speak volumes to who he is as a human being."

Matthews, 33, signed a two-year contract before the 2019 season that included $5.5 million in guarantees.

The former USC star joined the Rams after 10 seasons with the Green Bay Packers.

Matthews was sidelined for several games because of a broken jaw, but he finished with eight sacks, giving him 91.5 for his career. He was due to carry a cap number of $5.75 million this season.