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AP file photo by Tony Avelar / The Los Angeles Rams have released running back Todd Gurley, a 2015 first-round draft pick out of the University of Georgia.

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 out of the University of Georgia 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 with good humor.

"Damn I got fired on my day off," he wrote on Twitter, 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 offensive player of the year by The Associated Press in 2017 after racking up 2,093 yards from scrimmage and 19 touchdowns.

However, Gurley had a persistent left knee injury that limited his effectiveness down the stretch in 2018, and those problems carried over to last season as he rushed for a career-low 857 yards and played sparingly, although McVay never acknowledged it was because of Gurley's knee.

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.

He 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 rushing yards are second in the league over the past half-decade, barely behind Dallas Cowboys star 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.

McVay and Rams general manager 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."

 

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