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  • Day One of the Rams new season has a soap opera feel

    Day One of the Rams new season has a soap opera feel
    By VINCENT BONSIGNORE | vbonsignore@scng.com | Daily News
    PUBLISHED: July 29, 2017 at 10:04 pm | UPDATED: July 29, 2017 at 10:59 pm

    The day should have been all about new head coach Sean McVay officially putting his imprint on the Rams and the progress of second-year quarterback Jared Goff and all those shiny new pieces added through the draft and free agency.

    But when the Rams opened training camp Saturday at UC Irvine, the focus was instead on the very important piece to their puzzle that wasnít there and the lock down cornerback who showed up in mind but perhaps not spirit.

    That would be All-Pro defensive lineman Aaron Donald and cornerback Trumaine Johnson. The former is officially a camp hold out mired in a contract dispute while the later has sized up his own contract situation and decided his Rams future is rapidly coming to an end.

    And in Johnsonís case, he wasnít shy Saturday about saying so out loud.

    It didnít exactly turn the bright blue skies hovering over UC Irvine ugly. But the Rams obviously have two tenuous situations on their hands that need attending and managing. And if they donít do it deftly, they could pay a steep price.

    The absence of Donald wasnít a major jolt, of course. His hold out was established the day before when he didnít report with the rest of the Rams veterans, the result of months of contract talks that havenít yet yielded an acceptable new contract. And while there is strong indication both the club and player are determined to find the common ground necessary to keep Donald in the Rams fold for a very long time, there are enough complicated dynamics and nuances involved in this kind mega NFL contract that the finish line may not come into focus anytime soon.

    Especially with the situation coming to a head a bit earlier than anticipated. Donald still has two years remaining on his rookie contract, but heís played so above and beyond the value of the contract over his first three seasons he earned a bigger payday sooner than anyone originally imagined.

    Still, there doesnít appear any panic that something wonít eventually get done.

    Yet, anyway.

    Johnson, on the other hand, is a bit more complicated and potentially dangerous.

    The two-year contract dance heís done with the Rams hasnít resulted in the long-term marriage he hoped for. And just as he played last year under the franchise tag distinction heíll do so again this year.

    Heís hardly happy with the prospect, making it abundantly clear Saturday he desperately wanted a long-term deal with the Rams.

    ďI wanted it big time,Ē Johnson said.

    The lack of securing one after taking two bites at the apple isnít lost on Johnson, and he can only draw one conclusion as a result.

    The way he sees it, the Rame no longer view him as a long-range asset. And as far as heís concerned, thereís really no point in pretending that isnít the case.

    ďI believe that Rams are going in a different direction at the end of the season,Ē Johnson said, matter-of-factly.

    And what leads him to believe that, he was asked.

    ďYouíre smart,Ē he told the questionnaire.

    He didnít have to explain anything further.

    Two straight offseasons without a long-term contract Ė including the last one in which the Rams openly admitted they wanted to assess Johnsonís fit under new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips during OTAís before even entertaining negotiations on one Ė have gone nowhere fast.

    That doesnít happen by accident.

    So in Johnsonís mind, it means the Rams arenít interested in keeping him around beyond next season.

    There are mathematical reasons in play as well as practical, of course.

    By this time next offseason the Rams should have Donald under contract long term Ė and the major upgrade in pay to go with it Ė and emerging middle linebacker Alec Ogletree will be a high priority to lock down long term too.

    Thereís only so much money to go around under the iron clad salary cap structure of the NFL, and difficult decisions have to be made in order to fit the priority pieces of the puzzle within the payroll guidelines.

    Johnson, who followed a seven-interception season in 2015 with a one-pick season in 2016 may have played his way out of a priority spot. At least with the Rams.

    He seems resigned to that reality.

    And for now, he is handling it professionally. At least outwardly.

    ďIím here, still playing football, still lacing up my cleats still putting the Rams jersey on,Ē he said. ďIím blessed. Iím here to win football games, thatís my goal. Point simple blank.

    ďIím not going to be selfish about it,Ē he added. ďItís not about me. Itís about this team and winning games. And thatís what Iím here for.Ē

    As long as that remains Johnsonís mindset, he and the Rams can co-exist through 2017 and then part ways next March. And who knows, with Johnson knowing heís auditioning for 31 other teams the Rams could get the best of him theyíve ever seen. Certainly the most motivated.

    But words and feelings have a way of changing as seasons unfold. Who knows what tune Johnson will be singing if the Rams struggle again this year or his play takes a step back or his role gets diminished?

    Whatís manageable on the last day of July might be unacceptable come October.

    At the very least, it bears monitoring.

    That, prospect, coupled with a contract situation with Donald no one can guarantee will end happily, shouldnít be the focus on the first day of a new year.

    But it was.


  • #2
    Wow, this franchise is terrible with money. We overpay meidocre receivers and good defensive players are ready to walk. Plus we can't even lock up (IMO) the best player in the NFL.

    Comment


    • #3
      Sounds like Bonsignore wants it to be a soap opera. All this jibber jabber about contracts is silly, as nobody, apart from a few people in the front office, a few agents and the players themselves know the details about the negotiations. Trumaine says he wants to be with the team long term... great, but do we know what his agent was seeking? No. We all want Donald to be back, but do we know what is on the table and how much more he's demanding? No.

      I'm betting Donald will be back within the week (signed or unsigned).

      Johnson will play hard for the team this year. We'll worry about next year next year.

      Spare me the drama queens in the media.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by RamFanEsq View Post
        Sounds like Bonsignore wants it to be a soap opera.
        Do you get a Bernie vibe from his writing?

        Comment


        • #5
          It amazes me how players talk about how badly they want to play for a team but then reject every offer that the team makes.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Nick View Post

            Do you get a Bernie vibe from his writing?
            Who is this "Bernie" you speak of?

            Comment

            Related Topics

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            • Nick
              As camp opens, Trumaine Johnson knows the end is near between him and Rams
              by Nick
              As camp opens, Trumaine Johnson knows the end is near between him and Rams
              By RICH HAMMOND | rhammond@scng.com | Orange County Register
              PUBLISHED: July 29, 2017 at 6:52 pm | UPDATED: July 29, 2017 at 7:35 pm

              IRVINE ó Trumaine Johnson wore a Rams jersey Saturday. He talked about winning games for the Rams. He signed a couple hundred autographs for Rams fans, and even greeted one who heckled him.

              Yet thereís a subtext now clear to everyone. Johnson wonít be with the Rams after this season.

              The Rams, for a second consecutive offseason, tagged Johnson as their franchise player, a designation that included a guaranteed one-year contract worth almost $17 million. Johnson often said he hoped to sign a long-term contract with the Rams, but that deadline quietly passed on July 17.
              ďI wanted it. I wanted it big-time,Ē Johnson said. ďI believe the Rams are going in a different direction at the end of the season, and thatís out of my control. So Iím here, and Iím putting my jersey on, and Iím still lacing up my cleats. Iím happy. Iím here to win games and help this team win games.Ē

              On a day when star defensive tackle Aaron Donald officially began his training-camp holdout, as his agent negotiates a new, massive contract, the Rams welcomed Johnson, even if things are a bit awkward.

              A divorce between the Rams and Johnson, their top cornerback, is imminent, but the first day of camp at UC Irvine showed that the sides seemed to have reached an understanding. The Rams will pay Johnson well ó nearly $17 million ó and he be a good teammate and wonít verbally snipe at the team.

              Thatís not to say Johnson is thrilled. Asked, in several different ways, about his mindset, Johnson said, ďIím here to win games,Ē a phrase he repeated eight times in a four-minute interview.

              ďOverall, any player would want a long-term deal,Ē Johnson said. ďI just didnít get one. Iím not about to feel sorry for myself or be mad at it and be selfish about it. Itís not about me. Itís about this team and winning games. Thatís what Iím here for.Ē

              Johnson could have become a free agent after the 2015 season, but the Rams used their franchise tag on him then, and again in 2016. In the process, the Rams lost starting cornerback Janoris Jenkins to free agency, but made it clear they hoped to sign Johnson, a Stockton native, to a new contract.

              It appears that never got close. Rams officials said, during the offseason, that they wanted to wait to see how Johnson ďfitĒ in the teamís new defense before they made a long-term commitment, and no deal got done after OTA practices ended in June.

              The Rams technically could resume contract talks with Johnson after the final game of this season, but that seems unlikely, especially to Johnson. Asked why he believed, so firmly that the Rams are going in a different direction, Johnson told a reporter, ďYouíre smart. Youíre...
              -07-30-2017, 07:59 AM
            • AvengerRam
              Aaron Donald has less than 48 hours of leverage
              by AvengerRam
              Aaron Donald must report to camp by tomorrow or he will lose a year's credit in the CBA's free agency system. I'm presuming he won't do that, so I expect the holdout to be over soon.

              That said, the issue won't be resolved if Donald merely reports to camp without a new contract.

              Its hard to have an opinion regarding the situation, as nobody outside of Rams' Park and Donald's inner circle knows what has been offered and what has been demanded.

              My opinion, though, is as follows...

              IF the Rams are offering a "highest paid DT" contract, despite the fact that Donald is still under his rookie deal for two more years, and Donald is holding out for "highest paid player" money, I'd say Donald is the unreasonable one.

              IF theRams aretrying to use Donald's rookie contract as leverage to lock him into a below market value contract, then I'd say the Rams were being unreasonable.

              All that said, I really don't expect a long-term problem. Donald is too good a player to let go, and he's not the type of player I'd expect to drag his heels on the field while waiting for a new deal.

              My prediction: he'll be signed by 5:00 tomorrow.
              -08-07-2017, 07:19 AM
            • Nick
              Bonsignore: For now, anyway, Aaron Donald is back in the Ramsí fold
              by Nick
              Bonsignore: For now, anyway, Aaron Donald is back in the Ramsí fold
              By VINCENT BONSIGNORE | vbonsignore@scng.com | Daily News
              PUBLISHED: September 13, 2017 at 5:55 pm | UPDATED: September 13, 2017 at 6:30 pm

              THOUSAND OAKS Ė Aaron Donald emerged from the Rams weight room at their Thousand Oaks training facility on Wednesday, flashed a bit of a grin to some nearby observers, then made his way to the nearby practice field.

              And just like that, Donald was back, present and accounted for with the Rams. Heíll presumably play Sunday against Washington at the Coliseum, although the certainty of that Ė and how much he actually plays Ė rests in how his body responds to the first full week of practice since December.

              ďI worked out a lot. Iím in great shape,Ē he said. ďBut itís a different from running around out there then from being on the football field. Just going to take it day by day here and just seeing how I feel as the week goes on.Ē

              For now, anyway, the long contract holdout that cost Donald most of OTAs, all of training camp, all four preseason games and, to be technical, the season opener against the Colts, is behind him.

              We stress for now, anyway, because Donaldís triumphant return didnít include the new, lucrative contract he hoped the holdout would eventually produce. And the longer that stays the case, the greater the chance we go through all this again at some point.

              The fear of losing paychecks likely wonít mean another holdout happening during the regular season. But who knows what his position will be come next offseason as he approaches the final year of a contract he has thoroughly outplayed.

              All of which was much too far into the future for Donald even ot consider, let alone discuss, on his first day back at practice.

              ďIím just thinking about now,Ē he said. ďIím here now.Ē

              What ďhereĒ really means remains to be seen, of course. Letís be frank, Donald didnít return because of his undying love for football or his teammates Ė of which he admittedly has an abundance.

              He came back because he wasnít about to start sacrificing actual paychecks in pursuit of a new deal. That doesnít make him greedy, it makes him smart.

              Donald offered no clues on whether he and the Rams are close on a new deal. And while he said he is ďhopefulĒ something eventually gets done to keep him in Los Angeles a long time, he didnít sound all that convincing.

              Conventional wisdom says when two sides are motivated to get things done, it usually gets done. The Rams want Donald around long term and understand the kind of financial investment it will take to make that happen. And Donald seems to want to be here.

              But thatís been the case now for months, and no deal has materialized.

              Itís all about money,of course.

              The Rams believe heís worth A, B and C over the current highest-paid...
              -09-14-2017, 04:22 AM
            • AvengerRam
              In a game of chicken, neither the Rams nor Donald can win.
              by AvengerRam
              A lot of the commentary on the Aaron Donald contract situation is based upon assumptions, rather than facts. Some assume that the Rams have not offered Donald his "market value," and that the should just "pay the man." Others assume that Donald is being unreasonable and should "just sign already." I think most of us have been guilty of making these types of assumptions to some degree because, as fans, we just want to see a deal get done.

              The reality, however, is that we don't know what is being discussed behind closed doors.

              Here is what we do know:

              1. Donald's rookie contract runs for two years (including the option year), through the 2019 season [as Nick pointed out, this is not correct - see below.]
              2. Once his contract runs out, the Rams have the ability to retain him under the franchise tag for up to 3 years (through the 2022 season); and
              3. Though he ultimately reported and played, Donald has demonstrated the willingness to miss all of training camp and preseason, and two regular season games, in a contract holdout.

              In light of these facts, its irrational for either side to take a completely hard-line stance. If Donald does so, the Rams can keep him locked up for the prime years of his career without giving him a long-term contract. If the Rams do, Donald can continue to disrupt the team by refusing to go to training camp and holding out into the season.

              Of the two, the Rams have greater leverage, as Donald would feel the pain of fines/salary loss if he holds out. Nonetheless, he is not without significant leverage (including that which comes from the potential that fans will blame the team if he's not on the field).

              The two sides need to figure this out and come up with a "fair" solution. The Rams need to accept that Donald is going to command a very large piece of the cap, as his play merits such a payday. Donald needs to accept that he's not a quarterback, and that, as great as he is, the Rams need to save money for other great players.

              NFL contract mediation services... that could be a good vocation.... hmmm.....
              -06-12-2018, 11:34 AM
            • Nick
              ESPN: How Aaron Donald's situation might be tied to Khalil Mack's
              by Nick
              How Aaron Donald's situation might be tied to Khalil Mack's
              Aaron Donald is looking to get paid like the NFL's best defensive player, which many believe he is.
              2:19 PM ET
              Alden Gonzalez
              ESPN Staff Writer

              THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- Aaron Donald will probably, at some point, become the game's highest-paid defensive player -- for some time, at least. His extension, whenever it gets done, promises to have a profound impact on the structure of the Los Angeles Rams' salary cap, the type that can greatly affect who can return and what can be added.

              Given that, Rams general manager Les Snead was asked whether his star defensive tackle represents the first or the last domino of his offseason.

              "I don't know necessarily in terms of last or first," Snead told a group of reporters Wednesday afternoon, four days after the Rams' season-ending loss to the Atlanta Falcons. "What I do know is he's an important domino."

              Another important domino could be Oakland Raiders defensive end Khalil Mack, who might need to sign his deal before the Rams and Donald's representatives can get serious about their own extension.

              Mack was drafted eight spots ahead of Donald, with the fifth overall pick in 2014. Like Donald, Mack is approaching the final year of his rookie contract (except Mack will make $13.85 million, more than double what Donald is scheduled to earn because he was selected within the first 10 picks and plays a historically more lucrative position).

              Donald is an interior lineman who affects games more than any edge rusher. He could win NFL Defensive Player of the Year -- an award Mack won in 2016 -- and has been widely considered the game's best defensive player for at least the past two seasons, most notably by evaluators at Pro Football Focus. Donald's representatives at CAA would probably lean toward waiting to see if Mack's rep, Joel Segal, will set the market first, which is at least part of the reason a deal was never completed last year.

              "To be honest with you, I would be probably lying if I put a timeline on this one," Snead said when asked about Donald's potential extension, which could pay him $20 million a year. "We want him to be a Ram a long time. So when we ink that deal -- or not -- I canít put a timeline on it. But it is a major priority, as it always will be until we get it done."

              It's a priority because of Donald's stature but not necessarily because of Donald's contract. The 26-year-old is under control at a very reasonable price this coming season, at $6.89 million, and the Rams can use the franchise tag on him up to three times thereafter. More pressing, from a practical sense, are potential free agents such as safety Lamarcus Joyner, cornerback Trumaine Johnson and wide receiver Sammy Watkins, a potential candidate to be tagged.

              "Weíll have them all going on simultaneously...
              -01-11-2018, 02:48 PM
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