Aaron Donald

Aaron Donald Expects To Ink Extension Before Camp

The Rams inked wideout Brandin Cooks to a new deal earlier today, meaning the front office will likely shift their focus to extending Aaron Donald. Well, it sounds like the defensive lineman could be inking that lucrative extension relatively soon. NFL.com’s Jason La Canfora tweets that Donald expects to sign a new contract with the organization before training camp.

We heard last month that talks between the two sides had been progressing, but Donald was still a no-show from OTAs and mandatory minicamp. Reports have indicated that the defensive lineman is looking to reset the market and become the highest-paid defensive player in the game. This means the Rams would have to hand out a contract that tops Von Miller‘s league-leading average annual salary of $19.1MM. At the very least, we know Donald is surely looking for a raise on the $6.89MM he’s slated to make next season. The former first-rounder would hit restricted free agency next summer.

Donald certainly isn’t afraid to extend his holdout into training camp and preseason. Last year, Donald ended up missing both, and his absence forced him to miss the first week of the season. If both sides want to avoid the drama this time around, they’ll have to agree on a new deal before Rams’ training camp opens on July 26th.

The 27-year-old has certainly earned the right to be the highest-paid defender, as he’s garnered four straight Pro Bowl nods and three straight first-team All-Pro honors. While he ultimately missed a pair of games last season, the defensive lineman was still plenty productive. Donald ended up finishing the campaign with 41 tackles, 11 sacks, and a career-high five forced fumbles.

While Cooks (and presumably Donald) won’t be hitting free agency any time soon, one of their teammates will see his contract expire at the end of the season. Yesterday, the Rams failed to reach an agreement with franchised safety Lamarcus Joyner, who will play next season on the tag.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Aaron Donald, Rams Extension Talks

Even with recent reports indicating that star defender Aaron Donald was looking to reset the market for non-quarterbacks, Rams COO and VP Kevin Demoff told NFL Network’s Steve Wyche that extension talks have been going well.

“I think when you build stadiums like this, it’s with players like Aaron Donald in mind,” Demoff said (via Marc Sessler of NFL.com). “And we’ve been at this process, working with them for the past year and a half to try to make sure that Aaron is not only here for the opening of the stadium but plays well into his years. And that he can play in the 2022 Super Bowl in his own home stadium.

“So we’re working on it and we’ll keep pushing forward. The dialogue’s been great. It’s been positive. I think [Donald] and coach [Sean] McVay have a terrific relationship. We look forward to getting this done. And putting Aaron in the place where he should be among the highest-paid defensive players.”

Demoff refused to give a definitive timeline for any signing, joking that the deal would be completed before the team’s new stadium was completed. The executive did admit that the front office is hoping to have a deal done before training camp.

It sounds like both sides are trying to avoid the scenario from 2017. Donald ultimately held out for all of training camp and preseason, and his absence forced him to miss the first week of the season. This time around, both the Rams and Donald seem committed to agreeing to a new deal, although it’s going to be pricey for the organization. If the 2014 first-round pick is indeed hoping to reset the market, then he’d surely be eyeing an average annual salary that tops Von Miller‘s league-leading $19.1MM. GM Les Snead previously acknowledged that the Rams will have to sign Donald to an unprecedented contract.

Of course, if there’s any defender who’s worth a top contract, it’s Donald. The 27-year-old has earned four straight Pro Bowl nods and three straight first-team All-Pro honors. Despite ultimately missing a pair of games last season, the defensive lineman was still plenty productive. Donald ended up finishing the campaign with 41 tackles, 11 sacks, and a career-high five forced fumbles.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Aaron Donald, Rams

Aaron Donald‘s seen several players follow his 2017 example and hold out in pursuit of an extension, but the Rams defensive tackle remains at an impasse with his team. Specific demands have not come out like they have in many past holdouts, but a number has emerged on the Donald front.

The fifth-year defender wants to reset the market for non-quarterbacks, Lindsay Thiry of ESPN.com notes, adding that the reigning defensive player of the year wants at least $20MM per year. This is understandable and may even be on the low end for what Donald could command.

That $20MM figure would top Von Miller‘s $19.1MM-AAV amount, but given the cap’s rise by $22MM since Miller signed his Broncos extension in 2016, Donald signing for $20MM annually wouldn’t comprise as much of Los Angeles’ cap as Miller’s deal does of Denver’s. Miller’s Broncos deal, at the time, represented just more than 12 percent of the 2016 cap. If Donald were seeking a 2018 equivalent to that agreement, it would cost the Rams more than $22MM per year.

While there are obviously more components to these talks, Donald accepting $20MM per year could actually be considered a team-friendly decision and represent slower growth for the top-tier defender market — much like when quarterback salaries proved slow to move in the years after Aaron Rodgers‘ 2013 extension.

Rams GM Les Snead‘s acknowledged the Rams are going to have to finalize an unprecedented contract for Donald, who’s unquestionably been the best interior defender in the league over the past two seasons. But what’s unknown is how much of a gap will separate Miller’s deal from Donald’s new one.

But given that Donald staged an unsuccessful holdout last year, he may have to be more pragmatic about his latest attempt. Should the 27-year-old superstar fail to report to the Rams by August 7, he will not be classified as a UFA in 2019. Instead, he’ll be a restricted free agent because of his 2017 holdout. While Donald’s talents would draw a monstrous offer sheet elsewhere in an unrealistic scenario where he’s allowed to hit the RFA market, thus forcing the Rams to place the franchise tag on him if this summer’s situation drags longer than it’s expected to, losing UFA status could well induce Donald to show up at Rams camp instead of skipping it entirely like he did last year.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Poll: Who Will End Offseason As NFL’s Highest-Paid Defender?

The league’s seen a large number of standout players skip mandatory workouts this week, setting up an eventful stretch despite teams being on break between minicamps and training camps.

The star power from the 2014 draft is driving part of this spree of holdouts, and this summer figures to produce at least one mega-contract for a defender (and likely more). By the time this offseason concludes, the defensive contract landscape will look different. Who will be the league’s new standard-bearer here?

Von Miller‘s held that title for two years, since signing his six-year, $114.6MM extension at the 2016 franchise tag deadline. Multiple stars drafted in the 2014 first round are gunning for contracts that would surpass Miller’s.

Will it be Aaron Donald? Despite playing a position that has not been traditionally compensated as well as Miller’s, Ndamukong Suh‘s 2015 free agency windfall notwithstanding, Donald has been the league’s most dominant interior defender for a bit now. With quarterbacks’ release times steadily accelerating, defenders lined up closer to the ball have seen a change in compensation patterns. Defensive tackles like Fletcher Cox and Kawann Short are each paid more than $16MM annually, and Donald’s operated on a higher level than each during his four-year career.

Holding out for a second straight year, Donald is a key component to a Rams operation that’s taking a more aggressive approach to contention than it did last year. While no deal is imminent, talks will presumably heat up soon. Les Snead‘s already said a Donald resolution will need to involve an NFL-high defender contract, but will other defenders end up with a better deal?

Khalil Mack didn’t follow Donald’s lead and hold out last year, despite both being on the same timeline and the Raiders defensive end beating the Rams defensive tackle to the defensive player of the year throne. Now, Mack’s stayed away from the Raiders throughout the offseason. While the Raiders may be a tad behind the Rams on the preseason hype scale, Mack has been vital to their defense — a perennially shaky unit despite his dominance — and plays the game’s most valuable defensive role.

At 27, Mack is two years younger than Miller. And the cap is now $22MM higher than it was when the Broncos signed their edge-rushing phenom. It stands to reason Mack will sign a more lucrative deal. However, Derek Carr accepted less than market value at $25MM per year to help Oakland be in better position to keep its core together. With that contract on the books, and a situation the Rams do not have to navigate with Jared Goff just yet, will Mack end up just behind Donald in this pursuit? The Raiders also signed Carr in June of last year. Mack signing in June, to conclude a less contentious process than Donald’s, would open the door for Donald to come in and exceed whatever deal the Bay Area parties reach.

What about Jadeveon Clowney? Not as accomplished as the California-dwelling duo, the No. 1 pick in 2014 has become a star in his own right. And at 25, he’s two years younger than both. As injuries have sidetracked J.J. Watt‘s otherworldly career, Clowney’s become one of the league’s best players. The Texans have a history of authorizing this kind of contract — as they did with Watt’s six-year, $100MM pact in 2014 — and have a quarterback at least two years away from an extension.

While Watt’s maladies have clouded his future and made Clowney more indispensable in the process, might Houston be leery of paying league-record money to another injury-prone performer? Clowney is not holding out, but he did not participate in minicamp while recovering from another surgery.

So, which defender will assume Miller’s position? What will it take to finalize such a deal? Will this derby end with a $20MM- or $21MM-per-year contract? Is there a darkhorse player (perhaps the franchise-tagged Demarcus Lawrence?) that could swoop in here? Vote in PFR’s latest poll and weigh in with your view in the comments section!

Examining Key 2018 Holdouts

The 2014 first round produced some of the NFL’s best players, and they comprise part of an extensive group of that skipped minicamp and could well be training camp holdouts. But several other standout players didn’t show for their respective teams’ mandatory workouts either. Here’s a look on where things stand with this absent contingent.

Aaron Donald, Los Angeles Rams: The reigning defensive player of the year is holding out for a second straight summer. He skipped the Rams’ minicamp, as expected, and remains focused on a landscape-changing deal. Both Donald and Khalil Mack are in line to eclipse Von Miller‘s $19MM annual salary, but the California-based franchises may be hesitant to be the first to authorize a $20MM-per-year pact for a defender. However, Les Snead‘s already conceded the Rams will have to finalize a Donald deal that makes him the league’s highest-paid defender. But with the Broncos superstar having signed his extension in a $155MM cap year, it’s likely Donald’s camp — particularly on the heels of a season where the all-world interior defender won DPOY honors after his holdout induced a two-game absence — is targeting a figure well north of Miller’s, with the cap now at $177.2MM.

The Rams see this process unfolding in a less contentious fashion this year, but a Donald deal — one that’s putting other priorities on hold — isn’t imminent.

David Johnson, Arizona Cardinals: Unlike Le’Veon Bell and the Steelers, this process features no immediate deadline. But Johnson’s contract expires after this season, with no fifth-year option available to the franchise. Johnson and the Cards are engaging in extension discussions, and Steve Keim said this week — as his All-Pro back skipped minicamp — the team looks forward to signing Johnson long-term.

This has not proven to be an acrimonious situation, but Johnson is on a slightly different timetable than Bell. Despite being a fourth-year player compared to Pittsburgh’s All-Pro entering his sixth season, Johnson is a few months older than Bell and will turn 27 in December. However, it may be in his best interests to wait and see what happens with Bell by the July 16 franchise tag extension deadline.

Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons: The NFL’s seen its wide receiver salary landscape shift since Jones signed his extension in August 2015. That contract made Jones the NFL’s highest-paid wideout, but seven receivers have since surpassed him. This includes Sammy Watkins and slot target Jarvis Landry, who respectively signed 2018 deals for $16MM and $15.1MM annually. Atlanta’s top weapon wants a revised contract and skipped OTAs and minicamp, and the Falcons are discussing such an amendment.

Jones has three seasons and minimal guarantees remaining on his deal, which averages $14.25MM per year. The team’s response a Jones camp proposal did not meet with the group’s approval, but the sides continue to negotiate. The 29-year-old pass-catcher said recently he has no intentions of forcing his way out of Atlanta.

Taylor Lewan, Tennessee Titans: The left tackle is part of the 2014 first-round contingent entering fifth-year option seasons, and he joined some of the group’s higher-profile players in skipping mandatory June workouts. Jon Robinson said upon being informed of Lewan’s impending minicamp absence that the parties are participating in ongoing re-up dialogue, but as recently as late May, no reports indicated this was the case.

A two-time Pro Bowler, Lewan is entering his age-27 season and is now shooting for Nate Solder‘s $15.5MM-AAV standard. That’s $2MM-plus more than any other left tackle makes, and the Giants authorized that contract amid free agency circumstances. This will complicate matters for Lewan and other extension-seeking tackles. Lewan’s option season is set to be worth $9.341MM.

Khalil Mack, Oakland Raiders: After not joining Donald in a 2017 holdout, despite being in essentially the same situation, Mack is doing so this year. He has not reported to the Raiders this offseason. The 2016 defensive player of the year saw 2014 draftee teammates Derek Carr and Gabe Jackson sign lucrative extensions, only to see the Raiders put his on hold — mirroring other teams’ processes with ’14 first-rounders — because of the franchise-friendly fifth-year option. Reggie McKenzie‘s maintained the franchise intends to extend Mack in 2018 and said other players’ situations aren’t factoring into these discussions. Though, it’d be hard to believe Donald’s process isn’t impacting Mack’s at all.

The Raiders and Mack weren’t close on terms in April, but both Carr and Jackson signed their extensions in June of last year, perhaps pointing to a near-future resolution. Unlike the Rams, however, the Raiders have a top-tier quarterback salary on their books. That could cause issues elsewhere on the roster. Although, the cap’s perpetual rise negates some of those potential problems.

Earl Thomas, Seattle Seahawks: Perhaps the most interesting of these situations, the Seahawks have dangled Thomas in trades but expect him to report for training camp. Like Jones, Thomas saw several at his position usurp him in the salary hierarchy since signing an extension. Thomas signed a $10MM-AAV contract to make him the highest-paid safety in 2014. Again in a contract year, he’s threatened a holdout for months and is following through. The Cowboys and Seahawks discussed a draft-weekend deal for the three-time All-Pro. While Dallas balked about sending a second-round pick for the 29-year-old defender, the teams may well revisit these talks.

Either way, Thomas is going to want Eric Berry money ($13MM AAV) on his third contract. With Richard Sherman in San Francisco and Kam Chancellor‘s career in doubt, Thomas is the last remaining member of the Legion of Boom. It’s just uncertain if he’ll finish out his second contract in Seattle or be shipped elsewhere and end that dominant era.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC Notes: Packers, Kizer, Rams, Donald, Redskins, Guice

Like most years, the success of the 2018 Packers will depend on the health of Aaron Rodgers. But unlike last year, who the Packers might turn to if Rodgers were to go down isn’t clear. The team was reportedly high on Brett Hundley, and was seen by most around the league as having some trade value before he was forced into action when Rodgers broke his collarbone last year. Hundley struggled mightily across nine starts, throwing for just nine touchdowns and 12 interceptions with a dismal 5.8 yards per attempt.

The Packers showed their dissatisfaction with Hundley by trading for DeShone Kizer this offseason. Now the once hot commodity finds himself in a battle just for his roster spot. The Packers’ upcoming three day minicamp is expected to be a big development in the battle for the backup quarterback spot, according to Michael Cohen of Packers News. Cohen notes that Hundley is heading into the final year of his rookie contract, and will have to show out this summer in order for the Packers to bring him back next year, especially with Kizer waiting in the wings.

With Rodgers expected to be excused from the minicamp, Cohen states that Hundley is “expected to take the majority of first-team reps” but that Kizer “will have ample opportunity to show his progress.” Whatever happens, it’ll be an interesting situation to keep an eye on as Kizer seeks to revive his career in Green Bay.

Here’s more from around the NFC:

  • Cohen reports that Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is expected to be in attendance for the mandatory minicamp. The 2014 first-rounder is heading into the final year of his rookie contract after the Packers exercised his fifth-year option last year. Clinton-Dix has missed all of OTAs for undisclosed reasons.
  • The Rams are uncertain whether or not Aaron Donald will show up for their mandatory minicamp, which starts tomorrow, according to Lindsey Thiry of ESPN. Donald is angling for a contract extension that will make him the league’s highest paid defensive player as he enters the last year of his rookie deal. Donald held out of all of training camp and ended up missing the first game of the season last year due to unhappiness with his contract, although he did show up to minicamp last year to avoid being fined.
  • The Redskins coaching staff “loves what they’ve seen” from Derrius Guice this offseason, according to Albert Breer of SI.com. Breer says “murky rumors” are the only reason Guice fell to the Redskins in the second round of this year’s draft, and that the Redskins think they got a great value. The Redskins have a crowded running back room, but Breer thinks Guice “should be a factor” in his rookie season.

Rams’ Other Contract Talks On Hold Until Aaron Donald Signs?

Aaron Donald is staying away from Rams workouts for a second straight offseason. But some big names are now in the picture for new Rams deals, creating a more complex situation.

Todd Gurley and Brandin Cooks are each in different situations with the franchise, but each appears on the docket for a big contract. However, Donald’s process will supersede these talks, per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (video link). Considering how long it took Donald to merely report to the Rams last year, this delay could be interesting.

As for the Donald talks, no significant progress is being made despite the previously expressed optimism a deal will be done. Rapoport reports that the start of training camp looks like a better benchmark to gauge these discussions. So, it doesn’t appear a deal is particularly close.

Donald is surely gunning for a contract that bumps Von Miller‘s six-year, $114.6MM accord as the richest for a defender in NFL history, and Les Snead‘s acknowledged the team will have to agree to that. It’s uncertain, though, how far into franchise-quarterback money Donald’s camp wants this new deal to land.

Gurley has two years remaining on his contract, after the Rams picked up his fifth-year option, and the recently acquired Cooks is entering his option season. No NFL team gave a 2014 first-rounder a deal prior to that first-round class’ fifth-year option seasons transpiring, so a Gurley pact prior to his may be a long shot. A Cooks pact prior to the deep threat playing a down for Los Angeles could be as well. But the Rams have not been shy about acquiring rookie-contract players expecting big deals in the near future, with Marcus Peters also profiling as such, and they now have Ndamukong Suh on a one-year agreement.

But in terms of deadlines, Lamarcus Joyner‘s does come first, with the date for franchise-tagged players looming July 16.

It’s unclear where the safety’s talks reside, but he signed his franchise tender and has been working out with the team during the offseason. Donald continues to stand as Los Angeles’ clear top priority, and the Rams’ $2MM-plus in cap space represents the lowest figure in the league presently. This will not be an easy matrix to navigate for a franchise that clearly believes, judging by the bevy of win-now moves over the past few months, it can win Super Bowl LIII.

Aaron Donald Skips Rams OTAs

Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald has informed the team that he will not be in attendance for Organized Team Activities on Monday, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. Donald, of course, is still pushing for a new contract, and his absence from OTAs is no coincidence. 

On the plus side, the Rams remain optimistic about hammering out a new deal with the three-time First-Team All-Pro. While Donald will not be with the club for their voluntary workouts this week, Rams head coach Sean McVay has been texting with Donald, and he says the line communication is stronger than last summer.

“He’s responding more than he was at this time last year, so that’s what I feel good about,”said McVay.

Given that Donald has been an elite player in each of his four NFL seasons, it seems likely that he’ll top Von Miller‘s $19.083MM average annual value, making him the highest-paid defender in league history. The Rams are aware of what it will take to lock him up, but they also have to be careful not to blow their budget with several other stars due for new deals. That group includes running back Todd Gurley and cornerback Marcus Peters as both players are due for unrestricted free agency after the 2019 season.

Last year, Donald amassed eleven sacks, five forced fumbles, and 41 total tackles playing mostly from the interior. Opposing teams will have their hands full as they deal with a defensive line unit that includes Donald, Ndamukong Suh, Michael Brockers, Ethan Westbrooks, and Dominique Easley in the rotation.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Rams Optimistic On Aaron Donald Extension

The Rams are remaining optimistic in regard to a potential extension for All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald, but there is “still a ways to go” before an agreement is reached, per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link). Los Angeles head coach Sean McVay has been texting with Donald, and the results have been positive, as he relayed to Andrew Siciliano of NFL.com (Twitter link). “He’s responding more than he was at this time last year, so that’s what I feel good about,” said McVay.

Donald, 26, is heading into the final year of his contract, during which he will earn just $6.892MM under the terms of his fifth-year option. After staging a holdout in 2017, Donald has not indicated whether he’ll employ the same strategy this season. But talks between Donald and the Rams don’t seem to be tinged by any sort of acrimony, as evidenced both by McVay’s recent comments and Los Angeles’ admission that Donald will likely become the highest-paid defensive player in the NFL.

At present, the highest-paid defender in the league is Broncos edge rusher Von Miller, who collects $19.083MM annually. Among interior defenders, the Eagles’ Fletcher Cox leads the way at $17.1MM per season, but Donald figures to blow by that mark and instead target Miller’s annual value. Indeed, it’s entirely possible — and perhaps even likely — that Donald will become the first defensive player to cross the $20MM/year threshold.

Donald, of course, has made a strong argument for his next contract by playing as the league’s best defender for some time. Donald, the 2017 Defensive Player of the Year, has earned Pro Bowl nods in each of his four pro campaigns, and was named a first-team All-Pro from 2015-17. Last season, Donald not only led the league in total pressures, but also tied for the best rate of pressure on a per-rate basis, tweets Sam Monson of Pro Football Focus, indicating Donald’s incredible level of efficiency.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

West Rumors: Raiders, Bradford, Donald

Although the Raiders have signed a slew of veterans in free agency this year, they are still in need of help at linebacker. And they may be hoping a run on quarterbacks helps bring Roquan Smith to them at No. 10. They may not be willing to trade up for the Georgia-honed linebacker, however.

Roquan Smith is the guy. I don’t know that they would be willing to give away additional picks later to go up and get him, but he’s the guy they want,” ESPN’s Todd McShay said, via Matt Kawahara of the San Francisco Chronicle. “… There’s a lot of love for Roquan Smith in that building.”

While NaVorro Bowman has been connected to the Raiders for months as a re-sign candidate, he remains a free agent. The Silver and Black signed Tahir Whitehead, and he’ll likely start at one of their second-level spots, with Kyle Wilber and Emmanuel Lamur in line to supply depth. But a long-term cog looks to be on the agenda as this draft approaches. The Raiders have not selected a first- or second-round linebacker who plays off the ball during the Reggie McKenzie regime, with Rolando McClain (Round 1, 2010) being the most recent such investment. Of course, McKenzie ceded some power to Jon Gruden this offseason.

However, the 49ers are a possible Smith suitor as well — with Reuben Foster facing possible prison time and Malcolm Smith coming off a season-ending injury — and met with Smith this week. He also visited with the Colts and Bears, each holding top-eight picks, in April.

Here’s the latest from the West divisions:

  • McShay’s also heard Tremaine Edmunds and Vita Vea‘s names linked to the Raiders. With four quarterbacks possibly set to go off the board before the Silver and Black’s selection window opens, they could have their pick of these three prospects.
  • While the Cardinals are going to ease Sam Bradford into action this offseason, Steve Wilks likes the early form the would-be starter is in. “I didn’t see anything (bad) out of his knee. Not one thing,” Wilks said, via Darren Urban of AZCardinals.com. “Nothing is wrong with his knee. I thought he threw the ball well, ball-handling, he handed the ball off, rolled out, bootleg, all those things. He’s doing everything we ask him to do. We just want to make sure we don’t put too much on him too soon.” Bradford wore a brace on his troublesome left knee early in the week before shifting to a sleeve, per Urban.
  • Sean McVay is encouraged by the early dialogue the Rams are having with Aaron Donald. The team did not expect Donald, a holdout until September last year, to report to the first phase of its offseason program as he seeks a landscape-altering contract. “We feel good about the dialogue that has existed,” McVay said this week. “This is a voluntary offseason program with where we’re at. You know he’s a guy who’s going to work hard on his off-time, and that’s kind of where we’re at.” The Rams sound like they’re on the verge of authorizing a record contract for the reigning defensive player of the year.
  • Maurice Hurst visited the Raiders on Monday, Scott Bair of NBC Sports Bay Area notes. Adding the Raiders are “hell bent” on strengthening their interior pass rush, which has been a trouble spot for a while now, Bair identifies the Michigan defensive tackle as a candidate for Oakland’s Round 1 choice it the team trades down from its No. 10 slot.
  • Foster’s in a world of trouble for an alleged domestic violence incident earlier this year, facing three felony charges, but the 49ers linebacker saw a misdemeanor charge dropped this week. Foster won’t face a charge for the possession of a large-capacity ammunition magazine, the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s office announced (via Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle).