The Los Angeles Rams began organized team activities (OTAs) on Monday, May 23. But they didn’t have one of their top players in attendance.
Defensive tackle Aaron Donald was absent from Monday’s practice session. While OTAs aren’t mandatory, several of the Rams’ other top players showed up, including Matthew Stafford and Cooper Kupp.
Skipping OTAs could be a negotiation tactic for Donald, who has threatened to retire without a contract extension, but Rams head coach Sean McVay is not sounding the alarm.
McVay Gives Update on Donald’s Contract Extension Talks
During McVay’s media availability, he didn’t seem worried about the status of negotiations between the team and its star defensive player.
“Dialogue has been good. He’s done a great job communicating,” McVay told reporters May 23. “[He] gets a chance to spend time with his family right now.”
Donald still has three years left on the six-year, $135 million contract extension he signed in 2018, which made him the highest-paid defensive player in NFL history at the time. However, the three-time Defensive Player of the Year has since been usurped of the “highest paid” title by multiple players. He currently has the sixth-highest salary among defensive players for the 2022 season, per Spotrac.
There’s no deadline for the two sides to reach an agreement. However, mandatory minicamps begin on June 7, and if Donald hasn’t signed an extension by then, more questions will arise especially if he is absent again.
Snead: ‘We’re in Progress’
Rams brass has appeared to remain positive when discussing Donald’s contract extension, assuring fans that talks won’t reach a breaking point.
“We definitely have chatted with Aaron, his representation, and we’re trying to come up with a win-win solution to reward Aaron but still definitely be able to continue trying to compete as a team at the highest level,” general manager Les Snead told reporters in March during a virtual news conference. “So, we’re in progress there.”
A report from ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler on May 18 suggested that the Rams are still looking to make Donald one of the game’s highest-paid players.
“The Rams are working with Donald’s reps on a new deal that promises to be record-breaking. This is expected to be an extension, repackaging the remaining three years on his deal with a big raise,” Fowler wrote. “Top of the market for defensive players is $28 million annually, and Donald will be well above that when this is all said and done. He has been arguably the game’s best player for at least a half-decade.”
With that in mind, Fowler reported that Donald could still retire even after saying at the Rams’ Super Bowl LVI parade that he was returning.
“Keep in mind that the retirement buzz around Donald — first delivered by NBC’s Rodney Harrison on the Super Bowl pregame broadcast — was always real. And it’s my understanding that Donald has a number he will play for,” Fowler wrote. “If it’s not met, retirement can still go down. Adding years to an already existing three-year pact takes Donald well into his mid-30s, and who knows whether he wants to play that long? But that’s the best way for Los Angeles to stretch out the money for cap purposes.”
The lack of a new contract or an extension might not have been the only reason Donald skipped Monday’s practice. Donald turned 31 on Monday. McVay told reporters that he called Donald earlier in the day to wish him a happy birthday.