Tuesday’s deadline for Aaron Donald to be classified as a 2019 UFA — in the event he is not extended before this season — came and went. The reigning defensive player of the year remains away from the Rams, but GM Les Snead doesn’t believe the sides are too far apart.
“We’re in the same ZIP Code, area code, ballpark,” Snead said, via Gary Klein of the Los Angeles Times. “I think all of us weren’t anticipating Aaron showing up on the 7th. As we worked through this, we always figured this wasn’t the date, per se.”
Snead acknowledged no specific deadline exists here, other than one that would sufficiently get Donald ready for the season. Although, he was the NFL’s best defensive player last season and didn’t report until mid-September.
The Rams are not worried about Donald missing camp time, with The Athletic’s Vincent Bonsignore reporting (subscription required) the team is fine with its top player working out in his native Pittsburgh to stay away from a potential injury that would come with team drills in camp. But Donald may want significantly more money than what currently represents the top defender contract.
Von Miller raised the bar two summers ago by agreeing to a six-year, $114.6MM deal, with $70MM guaranteed. The belief around the league, per Bonsignore, is that Donald seeks “elite quarterback money” — potentially as high as $25MM per year and perhaps as much as $90MM in guarantees. He adds the Rams are willing to make Donald the league’s highest-paid defensive player, but the holdup seems to be determining if the all-world interior defender is worth good quarterback money or that of a top-tier signal-caller.
A $25MM-per-year contract would significantly top Miller’s deal in terms of cap percentage as well, since the Broncos linebacker’s $19.1MM-AAV accord represented just more than 12 percent of 2016’s $155.27MM cap. A $25MM pact would comprise more than 16 percent of this $177MM cap, but with the cap continuing to climb by approximately $10MM annually, the 26-year-old superstar asking for this perhaps isn’t entirely out of step.
Snead recently authorized a landscape-changing extension for Todd Gurley, and that deal changed the running back market more than a $25MM-AAV deal would for the defender spectrum. So, the Rams clearly aren’t against outside-the-box thinking. Their five-year, $80MM Brandin Cooks re-up before he’s played a down with the team illustrates this as well.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.