Less than two years ago, it appeared the core of the Los Angeles Rams‘ offense — quarterback Jared Goff, running back Todd Gurley and receiver Brandin Cooks — would be together into the foreseeable future.
During the 2018 offseason, the Rams traded a first-round pick to the New England Patriots in exchange for the speedy Cooks, then before training camp signed him to an eye-popping five-year, $81-million contract. Shortly after, they signed Gurley to a four-year extension that included $45 million in guarantees — an NFL record for a running back.
But now both Gurley and Cooks are gone, leaving a significant cost behind, while causing an uncertain future for the Rams’ offense moving forward.
Cooks and Gurley each played key roles in powering the Rams to a Super Bowl season in 2018. Cooks caught 80 passes for 1,204 yards and five touchdowns, and Gurley had 1,831 scrimmage yards and scored a league-high 21 touchdowns.
But last season, both experienced declines in production. Cooks caught 42 passes for 583 yards and two touchdowns and was sidelined for two games because of recurring concussion issues. Gurley rushed for a career-low 857 yards and 14 touchdowns.
The Rams released Gurley, 25, last month and he has since signed a one-year deal with the Atlanta Falcons. On Thursday, the Rams traded Cooks, 26, and a 2022 fourth-round pick to the Houston Texans in exchange for a second-round selection (No. 57 overall) in this month’s NFL draft.
Gurley’s dead-money cap charges of $11.75 million will be spread over two seasons because of his post-June 1 designation, and the Rams will have available $5.5 million in salary cap savings on June 2. Cooks’ dead-money charge will be $21.8 million this season.
It’s uncertain how they will replace Cooks, whom Rams coach Sean McVay often cited as an important piece of his high-powered offense because of his breakaway speed and ability to stretch a defense.
The Rams return starting receivers Robert Woods, who has posted back-to-back seasons with 1,000 receiving yards, and Cooper Kupp, who last season had 1,161 receiving yards and caught 10 touchdown passes.
Kupp is entering the fourth and final season of his rookie contract since he was selected in the third round of the 2017 draft. He is expected to earn a significant contract extension before the season.
Fourth-year receiver Josh Reynolds is a candidate to replace Cooks, however Reynolds does not have the top-end speed that Cooks has as a deep target. In three seasons, Reynolds has caught 61 passes for 832 yards and seven touchdowns.
The Rams also have seven picks, including two second-round and two third-round selections, in the NFL draft, which this year is considered to be several-rounds deep in receiver talent. Offensive tackle, running back, receiver and linebacker are expected to be among the top targets of the Rams in the draft. For a fourth consecutive year, the Rams do not have a first-round pick after sending it to the Jacksonville Jaguars, along with a 2021 first-round selection, in exchange for cornerback Jalen Ramsey, who is entering the final season of his five-year rookie contract.