Goodbye, contract holdout. So long, retirement talk.
In all caps, the Rams‘ Twitter account officially announced the return of their beloved captain, perennial Pro Bowler and three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year just before 2 p.m. Pacific time.
So, how did the Rams pull it off? According to a tweet from NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the Rams managed to rework the six-year deal he signed in 2018, giving him a huge raise while locking him up for at least three more seasons.
“Sources: The #Rams have re-worked All-World DT Aaron Donald’s 3 remaining contract years to give him a massive $40M raise through 2024, making him the highest paid non-QB in NFL history at 31 years old. He gets $95M(!) through 2024,” Rapoport wrote.
As the the highest-paid non-quarterback in NFL history, Donald will make just under $31.6 million a year for the next three seasons. Rapoport added that Donald came into the Rams’ office to officially end his holdout.
“There was a question about whether or not Aaron Donald would show up for minicamp. No longer a question: He came in, took a physical, and signed his new deal. Officially, official,” Rapoport tweeted.
And the online reactions flooded began to flood in.
Top Twitter Reactions
Mina Kimes of ESPN took a humorous approach, tweeting a clip from the 2019 horror film “Midsommar,” captioning it “NFC West quarterbacks finding out that Aaron Donald isn’t retiring anytime soon.”
The NFL’s official Twitter account decided to go with something more succinct: “Got the ring. Got the bag,” including an emoji to illustrate each sentence and a GIF showing Donald pointing to his ring finger.
Meanwhile, the “NFL GameDay” account tweeted a photo of a shirtless Donald celebrating during the Rams’ victory parade, captioning it: “@RamsNFL fans after hearing @AaronDonald97 got PAID.”
ESPN Stats & Info tweeted a reminder of Donald’s greatness, comparing his dominance to two other legendary NFL defenders. “Aaron Donald is 1 of 3 defensive players since the 1970 merger to earn a Pro Bowl selection in each of their first 8 NFL seasons, alongside Hall of Famers Lawrence Taylor (10) and Derrick Thomas (9).”
Lombardi added that Donald also tops defensive tackers in average per year earnings:
Fans also chimed in online to comment on Donald’s extension, with one posting a photo of nine different versions of Donald’s jersey. “Wanted to buy a New Jersey to celebrate, but I own all the ones we can currently buy. Guess I’ll have to wait for the new ones next year and the salute to service this year. WELCOME BACK AD99!!!!”
Another fan posted “Return of the G.O.A.T (greatest of all time)” in the Rams’ Twitter mentions.
Even a brand-new teammate of Donald’s weighed in on the historic deal: inside linebacker Bobby Wagner, who officially gets his opportunity to play alongside the future Hall of Famer.
How the Rams’ Trenches Look With A.D.’s Return
With A.D. back on board, he’ll be re-joining some familiar faces in the trenches.
Donald and the Rams, though, will be without Donald’s longtime trench partner Sebastian Joseph-Day. The nose tackle, who lined up alongside Donald for four seasons, has crossed over to the other L.A. team by signing with the Chargers during the offseason — where he’ll rejoin former Rams defensive coordinator Brandon Staley.
But the likely replacement for “Bash” next to Donald is 2021 draft pick Bobby Brown III, who saw action in 10 games last season.
Donald received his clearance to return as a newly $95 million defender. However, his new partnership with Kanye West’s Donda Sports is indicating there’s another announcement on the horizon.