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The Rams and Cardinals showed why NFL teams should never invest in running backs

Football “analytics” Twitter has united as of late to spark the ‘running backs don’t matter' debate once again with the news of both the Los Angeles Rams and Arizona Cardinals wanting to move on from their respective backfield starters, Todd Gurley and David Johnson — who are among the five highest paid at the position in football. If the Cardinals cut Johnson, they’d have to pay out over $16 million in dead money this season. If the Rams cut Gurley, they’d pay out over $25 million in dead money this season. These are the moves that can set a franchise back for years — and that’s exactly what’s happening with the Rams and Cardinals right now.

Rule #1: Do not invest in a running back in free agency, and do not give them an extension

The Rams are in a more challenging situation than the Cardinals at the moment. They own $14.7 million in projected cap space heading into free agency and don’t own a first-round pick this season for reasons other than Gurley. Their offensive line produced the second worst PFF grade — ahead of only the Miami Dolphins — and have little capital to upgrade that. Gurley has a $17.2 million cap hit in 2020 and, again, cutting him would raise that to $25.6 million.

Highest paid running backs in the NFL and their PFF grade rank (of 49)
1. Ezekiel Elliott, Cowboys 6-yrs, $90m ($50m guaranteed) 11th
2. Todd Gurley, Rams 4-yrs, $57.5m ($45m guaranteed) 37th
3. Le’Veon Bell, Jets 4-yrs, $52.5m ($25m guaranteed) 19th
4. David Johnson, Cardinals 3-yrs, $39m ($30m guaranteed) 22nd
5. Devonta Freeman, Falcons 5-yrs, $52.5m ($22m guaranteed) 49th

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