LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Rams have released Todd Gurley, their superstar running back with a massive contract and a troubling injury history.

The Rams made the move Thursday, several minutes before $10.5 million in the three-time Pro Bowl selection’s contract became fully guaranteed.

The Rams also cut veteran linebacker Clay Matthews after just one season with his hometown club. Matthews was due a $2 million roster bonus, among other guarantees.

Gurley will consume a whopping $20.15 million in dead salary cap space this season for the Rams, who signed the 2015 first-round pick to a four-year, $60 million contract with $45 million guaranteed in June 2018. Gurley was cut before even playing the first year of that extension, which made him the highest-paid running back in the NFL at the time.

With little salary cap space and clearly serious concerns about Gurley’s ability to perform at a level commensurate to the contract they gave him, the Rams abruptly cut ties with one of the most effective running backs of the NFL’s past half-decade.

Gurley reacted to his departure from his only NFL club with good humor.

“Damn I got fired on my day off,” he tweeted, along with a quarantine-related hashtag.

“All Business Nothing Personal,” he added in a subsequent tweet.

Gurley had phenomenal seasons during his first two years in Coach Sean McVay’s offense, rushing for 1,305 yards in 2017 and 1,251 in 2018 as those Rams reached the Super Bowl. He was voted the AP’s Offensive Player of the Year in 2017 after racking up 2,093 yards from scrimmage and 19 touchdowns.

But Gurley had a persistent left knee injury that limited his effectiveness down the stretch in 2018, and those problems carried over to last season.

He rushed for a career-low 857 yards last year while playing sparingly, although McVay never acknowledged it was because of Gurley’s knee issue. Gurley claimed ignorance about the reasons for his lack of action, including a career-low 223 carries and just 31 receptions, his lowest total since his rookie year.

McVay and Rams GM Les Snead issued only brief public statements about the release of a franchise cornerstone.

“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,” McVay said. “I wish him nothing but the best.”

Gurley is tops in the NFL with 58 rushing touchdowns since he joined the league in 2015, and his 70 total touchdowns also lead the league over the past five seasons. His 5,404 yards rushing are second most in the league over the past half-decade, barely behind Dallas’ Ezekiel Elliott (5,405).

The Rams attempted to find trade partners to take Gurley, but his exorbitant contract apparently made it impossible. Instead of keeping one of their biggest stars to sell tickets as they move into new SoFi Stadium this season, the Rams let Gurley go.

“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,” Snead said. “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.”

Snead and the Rams are juggling the bills for their spending spree over the past two years while trying to win now under McVay, who has had three straight winning seasons. After losing the Super Bowl to New England in February 2019, Los Angeles went 9-7 last season and missed the playoffs after winning the previous two NFC West titles.

Snead has recently handed out the biggest contracts in NFL history for a running back (Gurley), a quarterback (Jared Goff) and a defensive player (Aaron Donald). He subsequently traded two first-round picks for cornerback Jalen Ramsey, who will almost certainly get his own massive contract extension soon.

Darrell Henderson could be Gurley’s replacement after the third-round pick rushed for 147 yards in limited playing time as a rookie. Malcolm Brown, Gurley’s backup for all five seasons with the Rams, is also under contract for the upcoming season.

Matthews is the fifth defensive starter to leave the Rams in the offseason. He had eight sacks as an edge rusher after joining the Rams following a decade with the Green Bay Packers.

The Rams have parted with seven of their 11 defensive starters and their top nickel back from their season opener last year. New defensive coordinator Brandon Staley also replaced Wade Phillips.

BRONCOS: A person with knowledge of the move told The Associated Press that the Denver Broncos are waiving Joe Flacco with a failed physical designation.

Flacco went 2-6 as Denver’s starter last season before a neck injury ended his season. He was eventually replaced by rookie Drew Lock, who went 4-1 down the stretch.

Coach Vic Fangio said at the NFL scouting combine last month that Flacco hadn’t been medically cleared.

LIONS-EAGLES: The Detroit Lions agreed to trade cornerback Darius Slay to the Philadelphia Eagles, ending the standout cornerback’s seven-year stint in Detroit.

Agent Drew Rosenhaus confirmed the trade and that Slay has agreed to a three-year, $50 million extension with Philadelphia. The Lions drafted Slay 36th overall in 2013, and he earned All-Pro honors in 2017.

VIKINGS: The Minnesota Vikings and kicker Dan Bailey agreed to terms on a new contract.

Bailey was fourth in the NFL in 2019 with a 93.1 percent field-goal rate, his best since 2015. Bailey made 27 of 29 kicks, including all three tries from 50-plus yards. Bailey also landed touchbacks on 66 of 87 kickoffs.

BROWNS: The Cleveland Browns beefed up their defensive front, agreeing to terms with former Bengals tackle Andrew Billings.

Billings is the third defensive player to strike a deal with the Browns in the past 24 hours. The team reached deals with linebacker B.J. Goodson and safety Karl Joseph on Wednesday.

• The Browns found their nickel back, agreeing to terms on a one-year contract with free-agent cornerback Kevin Johnson.

Cleveland’s secondary was thin and in need of another cornerback so general manager GM Andrew Berry locked up Johnson, who played for Buffalo last season after four in Houston.

• The Browns reached agreement with kick returner JoJo Natson, who played college ball at nearby Akron.

The 26-year-old Natson spent the past two seasons with the Los Angeles Rams following one year with the New York Jets.

He’s averaged 9.5 yards on punt returns and 20.9 on kickoffs the past two years.

BILLS: The Buffalo Bills confirmed signing safety Jordan Poyer to a two-year contract extension, which locks up the three-year starter through the 2022 season.

49ERS: A person familiar with the deal says the San Francisco 49ers have agreed to a one-year contract worth about $3 million with free-agent guard Tom Compton.

Compton will help fill the void created by the planned release of Mike Person. Person started at right guard last season but struggled in pass protection.
Compton is the first outside free agent to agree to a deal with San Francisco since the start of the league year. He has ties to Niners Coach Kyle Shanahan having spent time with him in Washington and Atlanta. Compton also played in Chicago and Minnesota before spending last season with the New York Jets.

TITANS: The Tennessee Titans have confirmed trading five-time Pro Bowl defensive lineman Jurrell Casey to the Denver Broncos for a seventh-round pick in April’s draft.

CARDINALS: The Arizona Cardinals agreed to terms on a one-year deal with linebacker De’Vondre Campbell.

The 6-foot-3, 232-pound Campbell played his first four seasons with the Atlanta Falcons and hasn’t missed a game over the past three seasons. He started 15 of 16 games in 2019 and had a career-high 129 tackles, including 75 solo tackles, six tackles for loss and two sacks.

Campbell is one of three players the Cardinals have signed to beef up their struggling defense, which gave up the most total yards in the NFL last season.

Arizona also announced it has agreed to three-year deals with defensive lineman Jordan Phillips and linebacker Devon Kennard.

BUCCANEERS: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have re-signed restricted free agent tight end Antony Auclair.

Auclair has appeared in 32 games over three seasons. He has 10 receptions for 84 yards.

The team also announced they’ve re-signed wide receiver Bryant Mitchell, who spent last season on injured reserve. He entered the NFL as a free agent with the Arizona Cardinals last year after playing three seasons with Edmonton of the Canadian Football League from 2016 to 2018.

JAGUARS: The Jacksonville Jaguars made several moves official by announcing the trade of five-time Pro Bowl defensive lineman Calais Campbell to Baltimore and three free-agent additions: linebacker Joe Schobert, cornerback Darqueze Dennard and defensive lineman Rodney Gunter.

The team previously announced the trade of cornerback A.J. Bouye to Denver. The trade of quarterback Nick Foles to Chicago remains unannounced.

Schobert will eventually sign a five-year contract worth $53.75 million and includes $22.5 million guaranteed.

Dennard agreed to a three-year deal worth $13.5 million and includes $6 million guaranteed.

Gunter will sign a three-year contract worth $18 million.

PACKERS: The Green Bay Packers are holding on to safety Will Redmond.

Packers GM Brian Gutekunst said that Redmond has agreed to terms on a new contract.

The 26-year-old Redmond has played in 18 regular-season games with four starts for the Packers over the past two seasons. He also appeared in each of the Packers’ two playoff games last year.

His nine special teams tackles last year tied for the team lead.

GIANTS: New York agreed to terms with veteran QB Colt McCoy on a one-year contract.

Entering his 11th season, McCoy spent the past six years primarily as a backup in Washington, making seven starts.

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