The bad news for the Rams is that they still haven’t worked out a long-term deal with defensive tackle Aaron Donald. The good news for the Rams is that their next star who is due to get paid isn’t clamoring for his own contract, yet.
“Obviously, we know Aaron Donald is the guy to get paid,” Gurley told SiriusXM NFL Radio on Monday night. “That’s the last thing we want to worry about is trying to get ours done when we need our best player to get paid.”
It’s an admirable approach, but it’s hardly necessary. Owner Stan Kroenke has the money, the Rams have the cap room, and Gurley has every reason to want to parlay a contract restricted by the rookie wage scale into the kind of long-term financial security that every great player deserves — especially a great player who plays a physically-demanding position like running back and who tore an ACL in college.
Whether Gurley came to the conclusion on his own or someone with the Rams led him to believe there’s a waiting line or a pecking order, that’s simply not the case. Gurley is eligible for a new deal, and the Rams can give him one now, regardless of whether or when Aaron Donald agrees to terms. For whatever reason, Gurley — the reigning NFL offensive player of the year — isn’t insisting that he get his financial reward.
“That’s not even really the focus right now,” Gurley said. “Once you win that Super Bowl, they don’t have a choice but to pay you whether it’s the Rams or any other team. Once we try to put that together and do that, everything will take care of itself. Just focus on what’s next.”
It’s good that he’s focused on a goal, but winning a Super Bowl isn’t how a player gets paid. The building of leverage and a willingness to use it is how a player gets paid. Gurley has built leverage with his performance through three seasons. He’s apparently not willing to use that leverage for now, and based on his comments from Monday night he may not be willing to use it until the Rams win a Super Bowl.
But winning a Super Bowl really isn’t the tipping point to get every player who contributed to the effort paid big money. What has Nick Foles gotten for becoming the MVP of Super Bowl LII? A spot back on the bench and not another penny on his contract.
No, teams won’t pay a guy based on team achievements or anything other than the player building a pile of chips and developing a propensity to play those chips aggressively — especially when the player is a running back on whom the team can squat for five years under his rookie deal, tag once or twice, and then move on from for a much younger, cheaper, and healthier model.
That’s the risk Gurley is running. With each passing year of wear and tear, he becomes less valuable to the Rams and, in turn, to any other team. So he needs to strike while the iron is hot, and it’s not going to get much hotter than it is right now.