The Detroit Lions don’t seem to need a running back, but they’re kicking the tires on Todd Gurley anyway.
From the start, Detroit Lions head coach Dan Campbell has been clear he’s old school. On that note, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, free agent running back Todd Gurley is in Detroit for a visit on Thursday.
Gurley has familiar ties in Detroit. General manager Brad Holmes was Director of College Scouting for the Rams when Gurley was drafted 10th overall in 2015. And of course Lions quarterback Jared Goff overlapped with Gurley as the Rams’ quarterback.
After a serious decline with the Rams in 2019, Gurley was released and landed with the Atlanta Falcons. In his lone season with the Falcons, the former Offensive Rookie of the Year set career-lows for carries (195) and yards (678). He did score nine touchdowns though, as he continued to show a nose for the end zone (51 rushing touchdowns over the last four seasons).
How would Todd Gurley fit in the Lions’ backfield?
D’Andre Swift showed promise a rookie last year, around an early lack of work and a concussion later. He seems headed for a breakout season in 2021, then the Lions signed former Packer Jamaal Williams in free agency. More recently, Lions offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn referred to Williams as a “classic A back”, further squashing any buzz around Swift. But given Lynn’s past with the Chargers, there’s a hint of a Melvin Gordon-Austin Ekeler dynamic where two backs can succeed.
As a nod to being nearly 27 years old with creaky knees, Gurley has gotten no interest on the free agent market to this point. He may still have something to offer as a goal line back, but signing him is something a good team might consider. If not for a Deshaun Watson-less Houston Texans, the Lions would have a case as the least-talented team in the NFL this year.
Then again, albeit under a different regime, the Lions signed Adrian Peterson last year after Washington let him go. But there was room for Peterson in last year’s backfield, and he is still somewhat effective. Neither of those things apply to Gurley now, so this visit is just a reminder that he’s available.