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Why hasn’t Aaron Donald signed his big Rams contract?

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  • Why hasn’t Aaron Donald signed his big Rams contract?

    By Vincent Bonsignore

    Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald, winner of the award for AP Defensive Player of the Year, speaks in the press room at the 7th Annual NFL Honors at the Cyrus Northrop Memorial Auditorium on Saturday, Feb. 3, 2018, in Minneapolis. (Jeff Lewis/Invision for NFL/AP Images)
    IRVINE — If you’re keeping track of the Rams’ recent contract developments – and based on my Twitter feed that seems a likely bet – a natural reaction would be to scream: “But what about Aaron Donald?!”

    Understandable given how Donald and the Rams have been talking for more than a year about a new contract that reflects his status as the best defensive player in the NFL.

    Yet, they have exactly nothing to show for it.

    That is, aside from an entire 2017 training camp holdout and the potential of another one this year. The Rams open camp Thursday at UC Irvine, but with Donald barreling into the last year of a rookie deal that falls embarrassingly short of paying him fairly, it seems unlikely he’ll step foot anywhere near Orange County until a new deal is secured.

    And rightfully so.

    No one deserves a new contract more than Donald, whose performance at defensive tackle the past four years has soared so far above his paycheck he’s easily the most underpaid player in the league. And given the money he’d stand to lose should he get hurt before signing an extension, it would be foolish of him to suit up for anything short of an actual game practice until an extension finally comes to fruition.

    Nevertheless, less than 48 hours before camp officially starts, Donald and the Rams still haven’t found common ground on a new deal.

    It stands to reason, then, how people were scratching their heads upon learning the Rams handed running back Todd Gurley a lucrative four-year, $60 million extension after already locking up wide receiver Brandin Cooks with a five-year, $80 million extension just last week.

    Fans are probably asking: “Um, what about Aaron Donald?” in a way that suggests the Rams are prioritizing other players at the expense of arguably their best.


    But not practical.

    In fact, the question is flawed.

    It’s no longer: “What about Aaron Donald?”

    It’s: “What about it, Aaron Donald?”

    The Rams have demonstrated they are willing to pay at the top of a position market – as they did with Gurley to reset the running back market – or competitively by making Cooks among the highest-paid receivers in the game. It stands to reason they’d do the same for Donald, coming off a 2017 season in which he was named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year and racked up 91 quarterback pressures in 14 games.

    Given the Cooks and Gurley contracts, you’d be on the safest of grounds to deduce the Rams have offered Donald a deal that makes him the highest-paid defensive player in the history of the NFL and makes him the first non-quarterback to break the $20 million per year threshold.

    For argument’s sake, let’s just say it’s $21 million per year. And in terms of guaranteed money, let’s safely presume there’s more than $70 million sitting in the middle of the table just waiting for Donald to claim.

    That’s game-changing and generation-changing money that sets Donald up for the rest of his life and earns him the rightful distinction of being the highest-paid defensive player of all time.

    That’s game-set-match if you’re Donald and his agents.

    Or should be.

    That it’s not is remarkably telling. And not in a way that reflects poorly on the Rams. They are ready and willing to do right by their star defensive tackle.

    Within reason, of course.

    Which brings us to the question: “What about it, Aaron Donald?”

    What’s the holdup?

    What could you possibly be demanding so above and beyond what the Rams are offering that common ground has been so elusive to find?

    Donald and his agent, Todd France, have kept a tight lid on contract talks. As have the Rams. But there is speculation within NFL circles Donald is looking for a landmark deal.
    In fact, an NFL general manager told me recently word on the street is Donald and his agent aren’t just seeking a deal that resets the defensive market. They are looking for top quarterback money, which would mean pushing that $21 million to between $25 million and $30 million per year and thrusting that $70 million to the $80 million and beyond range.

    If so, that would be a reckless disruption to the Rams’ salary cap given the need to eventually pay Jared Goff, who is well on his way to becoming an elite quarterback.

    On top of already paying Gurley and Cooks top dollar and eventually locking up star cornerback Marcus Peters and tackle Rob Havenstein and guard Rodger Saffold.

    In a perfect, non-salary cap world, the Rams back up the Brinks Truck and pay Donald whatever he wants. But the world in which they operate consists of an unforgiving salary cap under which 53 players must fit. Ideally with fair contracts reflecting their performance.

    The Rams have been ready and willing to pay Donald accordingly and historically. The contracts they gave to Cooks and Gurley back that up.

    So what’s the holdup on Donald?

    Better yet, “What about it, Aaron Donald?”

Related Topics


  • MauiRam
    Bonsignore: Hey Aaron Donald, the Rams aren’t…
    by MauiRam
    PUBLISHED: August 30, 2017 at 12:32 pm

    Aaron Donald deserves to be the highest-paid defensive player in the NFL.

    So let’s just get that out of the way at the very top, lest anyone thinks sides are being taken in a contract holdout that has cost Donald all of training camp and preseason. And if he doesn’t report in the next day or so, it likely will mean sitting out at least the Rams’ season opener Sept. 10 against the Indianapolis Colts.

    Repeat: Aaron Donald deserves to be the highest-paid defensive player in the NFL. Have we cleared that up? -- Good!

    Let’s make something else clear: It’s time for Donald to end his contract holdout and get back to Los Angeles.

    Preferably by Friday. But absolutely in time for Donald to be available when the Rams open the season at the Coliseum.

    He’s taken his stand far enough by holding out. Made his point loud and clear.

    Up until now, we’ve all just sort of stood off to the side and nodded in agreement. Of course Donald needs to be compensated as one of the best players in the NFL. And if it means him sitting out some voluntary offseason practices and skipping the grind of training camp and not suiting up for some meaningless preseason games nobody pays much attention to, so be it.

    Nothing was being lost, tangibly, other than time and preparation.

    If it meant the Rams standing up and taking notice and ultimately doing right by Donald as a result, that’s something we can all get behind.

    Thing is, the Rams got that point a long time ago.

    And while they won’t say so publicly, there is a strong sense they’ve made it clear they are open to making Donald the highest-paid defensive player in the league relative to annual average salary while guaranteeing him a life-changing amount of money.

    If you’re doing the math at home, that means Donald making $70 million in guaranteed money and, should he play out the length of the deal, pocket $118 million or so.

    For point of reference, think somewhere above Ndamukong Suh’s six-year, $114.4 million deal that guarantees him $60 million, and Von Miller’s six-year, $114 million contract that guarantees him $70 million.

    That’s an incredibly fair offer given that Donald has two years remaining on his original rookie deal and that, frankly, with the Rams controlling him for at least the next four years they aren’t obligated to do anything.

    But they understand Donald has massively outplayed his rookie contract, and the $8.7 million he has coming to him over the next two seasons is almost an insult relative to his talent, his standing among his peers and the impact me makes for the team.

    Which is why they are willing to tear that contract up and renegotiate a new one that reflects the Hall of Fame caliber player they were so fortunate to draft with the 13th...
    -08-30-2017, 03:02 PM
  • MauiRam
    With preseason games upon us & Aaron Donald’s holdout lingering, what is his end game
    by MauiRam
    By Vincent Bonsignore| Daily News
    PUBLISHED: August 10, 2017 at 5:48 pm | UPDATED: August 10, 2017 at 6:17 pm

    With the regular season now just a month away, contract talks between the Rams and defensive lineman Aaron Donald remain stalled. (AP Photo/Greg Beacham)

    IRVINE – The Rams will play their first preseason game of 2017 Saturday against the Dallas Cowboys at the Coliseum. Barring a major development between now and kickoff, their best player won’t even be in the same area code, let alone in uniform and on the field with the rest of his teammates.

    The contract holdout of All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald continues to linger, hovering over the Rams like a thick morning marine layer off the Pacific Ocean.

    On and on it goes, now officially two weeks in length and months in execution if you go all the way back to the Rams’ organized offseason team activities. Donald was a no-show throughout OTA’s, firmly planting his feet in the ground in protest of a contract that doesn’t reflect his stature as the NFL’s best interior defensive lineman and the internal fortitude to fight for a new deal that does.

    The last time we actually saw Donald and the Rams in the same vicinity was at a mandatory minicamp June 13. But whatever positive vibes his appearance created in Thousand Oaks that day soon faded amid contract talks that yielded no resolution, an official training camp report date that passed without Donald reporting and the 13 days that have followed in which Donald has conspicuously remained AWOL.

    Donald and his camp have been eerily quiet throughout, but we can safely surmise they are seeking a deal that makes him the highest-paid defensive player in the NFL and surpasses in annual salary the $19,062,500 that Ndamukong Suh makes and the $60 million in guaranteed money his six-year contract with the Dolphins pays him.

    We can also safely assume the Rams have pushed a life-changing pile of money to the middle of the table for Donald to accept, an amount that will grant the 26-year-old Pittsburgh native his wish to be the highest-paid defensive player in the league.

    They are wise enough to understand what they uncovered when they drafted Donald 13th overall in 2014, and that, three years into his original rookie deal he is wildly underpaid and deserves a contract worthy of his current stature.

    In that respect, the two sides share mutual ground. Donald wants his just due and the Rams want to do right by him.

    On the other hand, months of contract talks have yielded no resolution. For all the mutual motivation they share, they just aren’t connecting on the key elements of a mutually satisfactory contract.

    The reasons for that could vary:
    • The Rams aren’t willing to go as high over the Suh market as Donald is demanding;
    • The two sides can’t find common ground on how much money is guaranteed;
    • Donald’s camp
    -08-11-2017, 10:02 AM
  • macrammer
    Aaron Donald
    by macrammer
    I sincerely hope that this is not a bad sequel. We paid Tavon, Tree, Chris, Donald his worth
    -05-21-2018, 09:56 PM
  • RockinRam
    Aaron Donald not at start of Rams OTAs; sides talking contract -
    by RockinRam
    By Steve Wyche
    NFL Media reporter
    Published: May 22, 2017 at 06:32 p.m.

    THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- Rams general manager Les Snead said contract talks between the team and All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald are in a "serious" stage, and he reaffirmed the Rams "like Aaron and want him to be around."

    The optimism shared by Snead signals that new deal for Donald is expected before the start of training camp -- if not sooner, much sooner.

    Donald wasn't in attendance for Day 1 of organized team activities Monday, prompting speculation that he was either injured or staying away for contract reasons. Snead confirmed the latter, adding that the team was aware Donald would not be at OTAs. Though Snead did not say it, he didn't deny that Donald was staying away to avoid injury until a deal is finalized.

    Donald, who turns 26 Tuesday, is believed to be training at home in Pittsburgh, according to a source.

    Donald, who has been selected to the Pro Bowl in each of his first three seasons, is scheduled to earn $1.8 million this season -- well below market value for one of the most dominant defensive players in the NFL. The two-time All-Pro and 2014 defensive rookie of the year has recorded 28 career sacks, four forced fumbles and 164 tackles in his career -- huge production for an interior player.

    While Snead declined to get into specifics, he said "you always look at comparisons" to other players' deals when formulating a new contract. In other words, Donald is about to become one of the highest paid defensive tackles -- if not one of the highest paid defensive players -- in the NFL.

    Dolphins defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh's average annual salary is $19.1 million. Jets DT Muhammad Wilkerson and Eagles DT Fletcher Cox each average just more than $17 million. Those contracts could shape the framework of a potential new deal for Donald.

    The numbers likely will be higher since new deals tend to reset the market and because of Donald's age, impact and projected future production....
    -05-22-2017, 04:01 PM
  • Nick
    Is an Aaron Donald training camp holdout going to become a thing?
    by Nick
    Exhibit A...

    Exhibit B...

    Hammond, the author of the second article, posted on Twitter that Donald's noncommital to training camp was less about that specific topic and more about not wanting to say anything about contract talks, and that it's Hammond's understanding that talks are ongoing with no sense of impasse.

    So, does Aaron Donald hold out of training camp if he's not extended? Does this become a thing to watch, or is this being blown up by reporters?...
    -06-30-2017, 07:02 AM