The Los Angeles Rams appear to be in their first tough situation since winning Super Bowl LVI.
Star defensive tackle Aaron Donald is in the midst of negotiating a contract extension with the team. While Donald still has three years left on his current deal, the 31-year-old implied in an episode of the “I Am Athlete Podcast” released on Monday that he could retire if both sides aren’t able to agree to a new deal.
Speaking to reporters for the first time since Donald’s comments went public, Rams coach Sean McVay still seemed optimistic that the three-time Defensive Player of the Year will play for Los Angeles in 2022.
McVay Believes Rams Are in a Good Spot in Contract Talks With Donald
As the general public learned that Donald’s still possibly contemplating retirement, McVay shared that was something that he already knew about. He’s confident that Donald and the Rams will come to an agreement.
“That’s not any new information,” McVay told reporters on Wednesday, June 1. “We’ve had great dialogue. The goal all along has been to try and get this thing figured out. But also, like I’ve said, if there’s anybody that’s earned the right to be able to make the decision on their own terms, after what he’s done, what he’s meant to me and our team, it’s Aaron.
“Things are trending in the right direction. None of that is new news. We’ve had regular dialogue with Aaron. The goal is to figure out how to get a contract done that he feels good about, that we feel good about, and have him continue to do his thing with the Rams and lead the way.”
McVay’s comments on Donald’s situation on Wednesday were similar to the ones he made on May 23, which was the first day of organized team activities (OTAs). Donald hasn’t been present at the team’s voluntary workouts yet this spring. However, McVay told reporters on Wednesday he expects Donald to participate at the team’s mandatory minicamp later in June.
The Latest on Donald’s Situation
Ahead of Super Bowl LVI, Donald shared with NBC Sports’ Rodney Harrison that he was thinking about retiring following that game. At the Rams’ Super Bowl parade, he implied that he would be returning for his ninth season in the league.
Donald re-litigated the retirement talk during his appearance on the “I Am Athlete” podcast, saying he would be “at peace” to leave the game if both sides weren’t able to reach a contract agreement. But he still has the drive to win another Super Bowl, which could be the ultimate reason he returns to the Rams in 2022.
“It ain’t about the money, it’s a business at the end of the day,” Donald said on the podcast. “That’s what you’ve got to see. For me, it’s about winning. I don’t want to play football if I can’t win anyway, so I feel like…if I got a real opportunity to win another Super Bowl, then it makes sense to play. But again, it’s still a business. We’ve got to handle the business side of things, and if that wasn’t to get handled then, you know, it is what it is type of situation. I’ll be fine regardless.”
Donald’s entering the fourth year of his six-year, $135 million deal, which was the richest contract ever for a defensive player when he signed it in 2018. Donald’s contract has been surpassed multiple times since then though and he’s got the sixth-highest salary for defensive players in 2022, per Spotrac.
Pro Football Focus’ salary cap analyst Brad Spielberg suggested that a two-year, $60 million contract extension would be fair to give to Donald.
“There are still three years remaining on Donald’s six-year, $135 million deal, with $55 million in cash owed,” Spielberg wrote. “Following the blueprint of Arizona Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins and Miami Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard, he could tack on two years to the end of his deal at a massive new money average per year with a signing bonus that takes care of him up front.
“A hypothetical two-year, $60 million extension would make Donald’s full contract a five-year, $115 million pact, with the true $23 million per year average just narrowly surpassing his old contract.”