Aaron Donald

Rams’ Aaron Donald Announces Retirement

MARCH 27: Details of a Donald restructure surfaced shortly before the all-time great’s retirement announcement. Information about how much dead money the Rams will eat has since emerged.

Due to void years proration, the Rams will eat approximately $24MM in dead money this year and $9MM in 2025, per The Athletic’s Jourdan Rodrigue. The Rams did not exercise Donald’s 2024 option bonus, but the void years utilized — as was the case on the Buccaneers’ payroll when Tom Brady retired — will create considerable dead money.

MARCH 15: Aaron Donald threatened retirement two years ago, leading to a monster contract. The superstar defender played two seasons on that deal. Despite the second of those producing yet another first-team All-Pro honor, the all-time great announced Friday he will walk away from the game.

The Rams icon confirmed he is retiring after 10 seasons. This bombshell announcement will certainly wound the Rams’ defense, as Donald is among the greatest defenders in NFL history. The 10-year veteran will step away from football at just 32.

While this comes as a surprise, Donald has accomplished just about everything he could in the NFL. The 2014 first-round pick stampeded to Defensive Rookie of the Year honors, matched Lawrence Taylor and J.J. Watt as the only three-time Defensive Player of the Year honorees and led the way in the Rams winning Super Bowl LVI. Donald’s 2023 rebound from a high ankle sprain produced his eighth first-team All-Pro honor, tying Reggie White and Bruce Smith for the most by a D-lineman in NFL history.

A year after his retirement threat produced a three-year, $95MM raise — an unprecedented move considering three years remained on the extension Donald signed in 2018 — the Pittsburgh alum said he was not considering retirement in 2023. But Fox Sports’ Peter Schrager notes this announcement does not come as a shock to the Rams’ coaches and front office staff. One season remained on Donald’s contract, which he restructured recently.

It is certainly arguable Donald is the greatest defensive tackle in NFL history. Offensive linemen did not enjoy the freedom they do now when tasked with blocking the likes of Joe Greene, Merlin Olsen and Alan Page, though those All-Century-teamers are firmly in the conversation. And rule changes have given offenses advantages they did not have in past eras. Donald reached unrivaled heights in a 10-year career; as injuries slowed Watt’s historic surge, Donald had no peer among modern D-linemen.

The great players in our league elevate the people around them and Aaron has modeled the way for our team as long as I’ve been with the Rams,” head coach Sean McVay said. “He’s an elite competitor, someone who leads by example in a way that’s authentic to him, and an exceptional teammate who inspires everyone around him to be the best version of themselves.”

The lightning-quick DT will retire with 111 career sacks and 176 tackles for loss. The 2014 first-rounder only sustained one notable injury as a pro — the 2022 ankle ailment; otherwise, his dominance lasted uninterrupted for a decade. Donald collected Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2017, 2018 and 2020, being the best player on two Rams Super Bowl teams and leading the way in preserving the franchise’s first Los Angeles-based title since 1951. Donald sacked Joe Burrow twice in Super Bowl LVI, and his fourth-down pressure cemented the team’s first Super Bowl win in 22 years.

Standing just 6-foot-1, Donald lasted until the No. 13 pick in 2014. The Les Snead-Jeff Fisher regime nabbed him there during the Rams’ penultimate year in St. Louis. Donald did not begin his career as a starter, but it became quickly apparent what kind of player the team had acquired. Donald moved into the St. Louis starting lineup in Week 5, never looking back.

Prior to 2022, Donald’s only previous absences came due to a 2017 holdout. Seeking an extension before his fourth season, the Pittsburgh native skipped training camp and sat out Week 1. Donald did report without an extension, with the Rams waiving his fines (when that was allowed under the 2011 CBA), but scored a record-setting payday a year later. Soon after the Bears extended Khalil Mack, the Rams gave Donald a six-year, $135MM extension with $50MM guaranteed at signing. Donald remained the top D-line earner throughout that contract, but after edge rushers began to surpass his deal by a notable margin, the 2022 retirement threat emerged.

Donald retirement noise stopped via the Rams contract agreement that June, but he had gone so far as to send the team a retirement letter that offseason. Before Donald’s 2022 contract came to pass, Rams brass had discussed how they would celebrate the unrivaled DT if he did step away. Those conversations will need to be revisited, as few players will have ever required a shorter Hall of Fame argument when that time comes. Donald will join Jason Kelce as Canton-bound players to retire this year. Donald made $171MM over his career.

Coming back from the ankle malady, Donald played in 17 games and notched eight sacks and 23 QB hits. Illustrating what the Rams are losing, ESPN’s pass rush win rate metric slotted Donald first among D-tackles; Pro Football Focus graded him as the second-best interior D-lineman. While Chris Jones has produced better pass-rushing numbers over the past two years, the Chiefs standout — who used Donald’s framework to craft a contract bringing a staggering $95.3MM in practical guarantees — his two first-team All-Pros are six off Donald’s pace. Donald ripped off seven straight such honors from 2015-21, peaking with a 20.5-sack season in 2018. The Rams booked a Super Bowl LIII berth that year.

In 2022, the Rams also rewarded Matthew Stafford and Cooper Kupp with extensions. Their 2023 offseason brought skepticism about playoff chances, with the exits of several Super Bowl LVI starters — including Jalen Ramsey and Leonard Floyd — leaving Donald to join a host of unproven defenders. Multiple rookies stepped up, but Donald’s presence has aided numerous players — including Floyd and Von Miller during their stopovers — over the course of his career. As DC Chris Shula takes over, Los Angeles will have a tall order filling its defensive centerpiece’s shoes.

Aaron Donald Addresses Retirement Decision

Aaron Donald brought his Hall of Fame career to an end last week, a decision which came as a surprise to many outside the Rams’ organization but not one to those within it. The franchise icon recently spoke further about his thought process on the matter.

“Ten years, 10 Pro Bowls, eight All-Pros, three Defensive Players of the Year, Rookie of the Year, two NFC Championships, three NFC West championships, went to two Super Bowls, won one, lost one,” Donald said in an interview (Instagram link). “I’m complete. I’m full. I think the passion to play the game is no longer there for me. I will always love football, but to think about going through another camp and another 17 [game] season, I just don’t got the urge to want to push myself to do that no more.

“I’m just, I’m burned out. The best way to say that is I’m full, I’m complete, I’m satisfied with what I was able to do in 10 years, and I think it’s time for me, at 32 years old, to retire from football and jump into the next step of my career and life and it’s time to move on.” 

Indeed, Donald’s career is one of the most decorated amongst NFL players on either side of the ball. Especially having won a Super Bowl in addition to his individual accolades, the Pitt product would not encounter any unmet challenges if he suited up for an 11th campaign in 2024. Due in large part to his massive raise secured in 2022, his financial situation is also far from a concern.

Donald has racked up over $157MM in earnings, a reflection of the Rams’ ongoing commitment to retaining him and his continued elite level of play through the final seasons of his illustrious career. He will no doubt enter the Hall of Fame when first eligible in 2029, by which point further clarity on his post-playing plans will have emerged.

Joe Noteboom Accepts Rams Pay Cut; Team Restructures Aaron Donald’s Deal

The Rams’ plan of installing Joe Noteboom as their Andrew Whitworth heir apparent did not work, making the younger blocker’s $13MM-per-year contract untenable as he shifted into a swing role. But the Rams still have Noteboom in their plans.

A pay cut will extend this partnership. The team adjusted Noteboom’s contract Friday, according to ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler, dropping his 2024 cap hit from its $20MM place. This will go down as a cut in exchange for 2024 guarantees. Now tied to a $5MM base salary, Noteboom will carry an $11.6MM cap hit. Two void years were added to the contract; the deal will void in 2025.

[RELATED: Rams To Sign S Kamren Curl]

Noteboom agreed to an $8.25MM cut in exchange for nearly $7MM in guarantees, per OverTheCap. As is often the case regarding pay cuts, the team was prepared to go through with a release if no salary reduction took place, The Athletic’s Jourdan Rodrigue notes. Alaric Jackson beat out Noteboom for the Rams’ starting left tackle gig last season; the Rams have kept their blindside starter via second-round RFA tender.

A former third-round pick, Noteboom opened the season as the Rams’ right guard. But trade acquisition Kevin Dotson overtook him for this role early in the season. Dotson has since re-signed on a three-year, $48MM deal. The Rams then added Jonah Jackson to be their other guard starter — on a three-year, $51MM pact — in a move that should shift 2023 second-rounder Steve Avila to center. Noteboom, who has made 31 career starts at tackle and guard, is set to reprise his role as a swingman.

Additionally, the Rams reached a restructure agreement with Aaron Donald. The move drops the all-time great’s cap number by nearly $10MM, reducing it to $24.97MM, according to OverTheCap. Donald remains tied to the three-year, $95MM deal he agreed to in 2022.

The Rams have gone to the void years well with Donald, dropping his 2024 base salary to $1.1MM. While this created cap space, a $38.5MM dead money bill could await the team in 2025. If Donald is not extended before the 2025 league year, the Rams will see that dead cap figure move onto their ’25 payroll. That number would top Tom Brady‘s void years-driven Buccaneers bill ($35.1MM).

After threatening to retire in order to secure his landmark raise in 2022, Donald has not been tied to retiring. The soon-to-be 33-year-old defensive tackle has, however, seen Chris Jones and Christian Wilkinscontracts far surpass his on the guarantee front. Considering Donald’s resume dwarfs even Jones’, as the former landed an eighth first-team All-Pro honor last season to match Reggie White and Bruce Smith for most by a D-lineman in NFL history. It will be interesting to see if Donald pushes for more guaranteed money this year or if the no-doubt Hall of Famer opts to play out his contract ahead of a free agency bid.

Deadline Notes: Dolphins, Saints, Rams

The Dolphins are one of the most explosive teams in the NFL and sit tied atop the AFC with a 6-2 record. While Miami has clearly established themselves as a contender, the team remained quiet through the deadline. In fact, head coach Mike McDaniel told reporters that the Dolphins really didn’t have any trades in the works leading up to the deadline.

This is mostly because of the team’s IR situation, and the Dolphins will soon see a number of talented players return from injury. As McDaniel explained to reporters, those additions should give the Dolphins the boost that they would have been seeking via trade.

“Yeah, we actually have several of the best trades that exist in the works. Ok? You’re talking about getting players with no compensation, or no assets given, from injury. So, I mean, we’re in a great spot,” McDaniels said (via Adam H. Beasley of ProFootballNetwork.com).

“I think [GM] Chris [Grier] is always, and will always enter into, you know, whatever conversations that are sought out to him and, you know, that’s that’s a part of his job. He doesn’t labor my mind with, ‘Hey, you know, like NFL gossip, like, hey, I talked to this guy and this guy,’ you know, he, he, he brings it to my attention when we need to discuss it when it, when it’s to a serious platform.

“And he didn’t discuss anything. And that speaks to where we’re at with our football team. We’ve been playing some good football, and then we have some players that are very good players that are returning.”

Safety Jevon Holland (concussion), cornerback Xavien Howard (groin), and center Connor Williams (groin) are among the injured players who could return to the field as soon as this week.

More notes following the trade deadline:

  • Following a quiet deadline day, Saints GM Mickey Loomis admitted that he discussed acquiring players for draft assets but never actively shopped any of the players on his roster. “We talked to a couple of teams about a couple of things, more in the acquisition area as opposed to trading somebody,”  Loomis said (h/t John Hendrix). “We didn’t really talk about trading anyone from our team. We did talk to a couple teams about an acquisition, but I wouldn’t say it ever got really serious.” The Saints currently sit with a 4-4 record and are tied with the Falcons atop the NFC South.
  • The Rams have a 3-5 record and are facing some uncertainty at QB, leading some pundits to wonder if they’d be sellers at the deadline. While the team received calls on some veterans, the Rams never shopped any of their star players. According to Jourdan Rodrigue of The Athletic, the Rams didn’t consider moving Matthew Stafford, Cooper Kupp, or Aaron Donald despite the front office potentially having eyes on the 2024 campaign.
  • Similarly, the Cowboys didn’t initiate any trade talks with teams, per ESPN’s Dan Graziano. The reporter notes that the front office did receive some calls on their defensive depth, but the Cowboys were content sticking with their current squad.
  • Some details on trades that were actually made: the conditional seventh-round pick that the Cardinals sent to the Vikings alongside QB Joshua Dobbs was a selection that originated with the Falcons, per Howard Balzer. Meanwhile, ESPN’s Brady Henderson notes that the Giants are paying most of the remaining $10MM on Leonard Williams‘ contract, with the Seahawks owing their new player only $647K.

DL Notes: Donald, Jones, Young, Cowboys

The Rams moving on from a wave of defensive starters this offseason could soon call Aaron Donald‘s status into question. No notable Donald trade noise has circulated just yet, but with the Rams retooling, those would not surprise. Donald’s landmark extension runs through 2024, but the guarantees on that $31.7MM-per-year deal end this year. Donald’s contract includes a no-trade clause, but it does not look like he will prioritize his hometown Steelers — either via trade or a potential free agency run. While the Pittsburgh alum may not necessarily rule out a stint with his hometown team, NBC Sports’ Peter King notes the all-time great does not have such a move as a priority. The Rams must decide on Donald’s 2024 status by Day 5 of the 2024 league year, when $30MM becomes guaranteed.

Donald, 32, threatened to retire last year but secured a landmark raise. The 10th-year veteran was not closely connected to retirement plans this offseason. Here is the latest from the D-line scene:

  • Chase Young is on the verge of returning to full-time duty, after a 2021 ACL tear and patellar tendon rupture sidetracked the former Defensive Rookie of the Year’s career. But the fourth-year Commanders defensive end is recovering from another issue. As a result of a stinger sustained in the first preseason game, The Athletic’s Ben Standig notes Young has not received full clearance to return and is not a lock to be available in Week 1 (subscription required). Young has not practiced fully in more than two weeks; he was expected to meet with a doctor this week. The Commanders declined Young’s fifth-year option in May, putting him in a contract year along with Montez Sweat.
  • Chris Jones‘ holdout has extended past the one-month mark, and while fines have piled up, the disgruntled D-tackle has indicated he would be willing to push this hiatus toward the midseason point. Jones reporting only to pick up an accrued season would certainly harm the Chiefs, who have relied on their dominant interior D-lineman for years. On that note, GM Brett Veach said (via Pro Football Talk’s Charean Williams) the sides have increased communication this week. Jones would accumulate nearly $10MM in total fines — from training camp fines and missed game checks — were he to sit out until Week 8. Andy Reid said Friday he has not been given any indication Jones will be back in time for Kansas City’s Thursday-night opener. Jones wants Donald-level money; the Chiefs are looking to pay him closer to the second tier of DT deals that formed this offseason. Quinnen Williams‘ $24MM-AAV deal tops that contingent.
  • The Cowboys appear to be planning to work in first-round Mazi Smith slowly. The Michigan product is expected to be a rotational player to begin his career, with The Athletic’s Jon Machota and Saad Yousuf noting Johnathan Hankins and Osa Odighizuwa are likely to be team’s defensive tackle starters in Week 1. Smith, however, will obviously be expected to move into the starting lineup early in his career.
  • Joseph Ossai‘s status for the Bengals‘ opener is up in the air due to a high ankle sprain, Kelsey Conway of the Cincinnati Enquirer notes. The third-year defensive end is unlikely to suit up against the Browns, per Conway. While Ossai has shown some promise, injuries have continued to intervene. The 2021 third-round pick missed his entire rookie year and, after playing through a torn labrum late last year, underwent offseason surgery. The Bengals are deeper at D-end now, having drafted Myles Murphy in Round 1 to join Trey Hendrickson and Sam Hubbard.

Largest 2023 Cap Hits: Defense

While the NFL’s top 2023 cap hits go to players on offense, a number of pass rushers are tied to lofty figures as well. None check in higher than Giants defensive lineman Leonard Williams.

Williams and Chiefs D-tackle Chris Jones carry high contract-year cap hits, while the Steelers’ two front-seven cornerstones each are set to go into training camp with cap figures north of $20MM. As the salary cap climbed to $224.8MM this year, here are the top defensive cap figures as camps near:

  1. Leonard Williams, DL (Giants): $32.26MM
  2. T.J. Watt, OLB (Steelers): $29.37MM
  3. Myles Garrett, DE (Browns): $29.18MM
  4. Chris Jones, DT (Chiefs): $28.29MM
  5. Aaron Donald, DL (Rams): $26MM
  6. Arik Armstead, DT (49ers): $23.95MM
  7. Cameron Heyward, DL (Steelers): $22.26MM
  8. C.J. Mosley, LB (Jets): $21.48MM
  9. Jonathan Allen, DT (Commanders): $21.44MM
  10. Shaquil Barrett, OLB (Buccaneers): $21.25MM
  11. Grady Jarrett, DT (Falcons): $20.63MM
  12. Marlon Humphrey, CB (Ravens): $19.99MM
  13. Shaquille Leonard, LB (Colts): $19.79MM
  14. Kevin Byard, S (Titans): $19.62MM
  15. Adoree’ Jackson, CB (Giants): $19.08MM
  16. Harold Landry, OLB (Titans): $18.8MM
  17. Justin Simmons, S (Broncos): $18.15MM
  18. Jamal Adams, S (Seahawks): $18.11MM
  19. Matt Judon, DE (Patriots): $18.107MM
  20. Quandre Diggs, S (Seahawks): $18.1MM
  21. Nick Bosa, DE (49ers): $17.9MM
  22. DeForest Buckner, DT (Colts): $17.25MM
  23. Emmanuel Ogbah, DE (Dolphins): $17.19MM
  24. DeMarcus Lawrence, DE (Cowboys): $17.11MM
  25. Eddie Jackson, S (Bears): $17.1MM

The Chiefs are working toward a second extension agreement with Jones, who is in the final season of a four-year, $80MM contract. A new deal with the star inside pass rusher would free up cap space, and DeAndre Hopkins is believed to be monitoring this situation.

As for Williams, the Giants had wanted to adjust his deal to reduce his eye-opening cap number. As of mid-June, however, no extension appeared to be on the team’s radar. The previous Giants regime signed off on the 2021 Williams extension (three years, $63MM). The Giants are also uninterested — for the time being, at least — in extending Jackson, who was also a Dave Gettleman-era defensive addition.

Donald is in the second season of a three-year, $95MM deal. The Rams gave Donald a landmark raise last year, convincing the all-everything D-tackle to squash retirement talk. A no-trade clause exists in Donald’s contract, which pays out its guarantees this year. Mosley remains tied to the $17MM-per-year deal the Mike Maccagnan regime authorized with the Jets. That contract, which reset the off-ball linebacker market in 2019, still has two seasons remaining on it due to the deal tolling after Mosley’s 2020 COVID-19 opt-out call. The Jets restructured the deal last year.

Washington now has two D-tackles tied to deals of at least $18MM per year. While Daron Payne‘s pact is worth more ($22.5MM AAV), higher cap hits on that deal will come down the road. Three years remain on Allen’s 2021 agreement. At safety, no team is spending like the Seahawks. In addition to the big-ticket deals authorized for Adams and Diggs, Seattle gave ex-Giants starter Julian Love a two-year, $6MM accord in March.

New Titans GM Ran Carthon attempted to give Byard a pay cut. That request did not go over well, but the standout safety remains with the team and has not requested a trade. Tennessee re-signed Landry on a five-year, $87.5MM deal in 2022; the veteran edge rusher has yet to play on that deal due to the ACL tear he sustained just before last season.

The 49ers can bring Bosa’s number down via an extension, which has long been on the team’s docket. As San Francisco extended Deebo Samuel just after training camp began last year, Bosa received back-burner treatment due to the fifth-year option. The star defensive end’s price undoubtedly went up during the waiting period, with the former No. 2 overall pick earning Defensive Player of the Year acclaim in the fourth year of his rookie contract.

DL Notes: Reed, Donald, Colts, Steelers, Cards, Jags, Jets, Bucs, Panthers, Texans

Jarran Reed‘s initial Seahawks tenure ended strangely, with the team’s attempt at a restructure leading to a communication breakdown that ended with the defensive tackle’s release. After Reed sought a Seahawks extension during the offseason in which the COVID-19 pandemic led to a salary cap reduction, he ended up signing a one-year deal with the Chiefs. That preceded a 2022 Packers pact. Reed is now back in Seattle, having signed a two-year, $9MM deal.

The veteran D-lineman said, via the Seattle Times’ Bob Condotta, neither side wanted to part ways in 2021 and that he remained interested in a potential return while away. The Seahawks called Reed early in free agency, and the sides agreed to terms on what is a less lucrative contract compared to the one the team removed from its payroll two years ago (two years, $23MM). Reed, 30, will join Dre’Mont Jones as Seattle D-tackle additions.

Here is the latest from the D-line scene:

  • The Cardinals met with Georgia edge rusher Nolan Smith on Wednesday, per NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport (on Twitter), squeezing in a final visit before the deadline. They also recently brought in Texas Tech edge Tyree Wilson, Albert Breer of SI.com notes, adding the Jaguars also met with the former Big 12 dynamo for a late visit (Twitter link). The Cardinals hold the No. 3 overall pick. While Arizona has dangled it in trades, the team not receiving a viable offer opens the door to a best-defender-available pick. Wilson would qualify as an option at 3, though Smith — No. 17 on ESPN’s big board; No. 18 on Daniel Jeremiah’s — would seemingly enter Arizona’s equation after a trade-down maneuver.
  • BJ Ojulari resides as a possible option for a team late in the first round or in the early second, and a few teams brought in the LSU alum recently. The Jets, Buccaneers, Panthers and Texans met with Ojulari, Rapoport adds (on Twitter). The younger brother of Giants outside linebacker Azeez Ojulari, BJ profiles as a speed rusher. He combined for 12.5 sacks and 20.5 tackles for loss over the past two seasons with the Tigers, declaring for the draft after his junior year. Azeez Ojulari went 50th overall in 2020.
  • Both the Colts and Steelers have met with Clemson defensive lineman Bryan Bresee, per Rapoport and ESPN.com’s Brooke Pryor (Twitter links). Bresee is in Indianapolis today. A former top-five recruit, Bresee is not a candidate to go in the top five of this draft. But the multiyear Clemson starter joins Myles Murphy as Tiger D-linemen on the Round 1 radar. The Steelers came up regarding Bresee last month, and while the team recently re-signed Larry Ogunjobi, Cam Heyward is going into his age-34 season. The Colts, who added former first-rounder Taven Bryan in free agency, have DeForest Buckner signed for two more seasons.
  • Buckner recently revealed he played all of last season with a UCL tear in his left elbow. Indicating he’s “not a quarterback or a pitcher,” Buckner said (via the Indianapolis Star’s Joel Erickson) his injury will not require surgery. Buckner finished with eight sacks and a career-high 74 tackles in 2022. Although the Colts are at a crossroads after a wildly disappointing season, Erickson adds the team still views Buckner as a cornerstone. The former 49ers first-rounder is going into his age-29 season.
  • Aaron Donald saw an injury sideline him for the first time as a pro. A high ankle sprain led the Rams superstar out of action, and Jourdan Rodrigue of The Athletic notes the all-time great underwent a tightrope procedure to repair the injury (Twitter link). This is not an uncommon procedure; Tony Pollard underwent the same surgery in January. Donald, 32 next month, has also returned to full strength, per Rodrigue. Two years remain on Donald’s record-setting contract.

Rams Committed To Retaining Matthew Stafford

After a disastrous title defense in 2022, the Rams are taking a far different approach to this offseason than they have in years past. That has already led to a number of high-profile departures, but a complete tear-down will not be taking place.

During a press conference leading up free agency, general manager Les Snead confirmed that quarterback Matthew Stafford is one of a number of veterans who remain firmly in the team’s plans for 2023 and beyond. “I think we’ll definitely rely on Matthew, he’s definitely one of our pillars,” he said, via The Athletic’s Jourdan Rodrigue (subscription required). “He’s definitely someone we’re going to rely on, [who] we’re gonna have to rely on as we do remodel this.”

Snead, as noted above, declined to use the term ‘rebuild’ to describe the Rams’ situation, one which comes after years of aggressive moves aimed at adding not only Stafford but several other veterans who helped them win Super Bowl LVI. Now, they are destined to move in a different direction as the clearing of expensive contracts has already begun, resulting in the release of edge rusher Leonard Floyd and, once the new league year begins, linebacker Bobby Wagner.

Cornerback Jalen Ramsey is also expected to be on the move, and multiple teams have called to gauge the 28-year-old’s market. On the offensive side of the ball, 2022 free agent addition Allen Robinson has been given permission to seek a trade, meaning the wideout’s tenure with the Rams could be cut far shorter than many would have expected one year ago. Not all notable names will be dealt away in the near future, however.

In addition to Stafford, Snead named receiver Cooper Kupp and defensive tackle Aaron Donald as “weight-bearing walls” who will be counted on during this transitional phase for the franchise. All three players were signed to new, lucrative deals last offseason, meaning Los Angeles would incur major dead cap charges in the next few years if they were to trade or release them. Snead acknowledged, though, that he has fielded trade calls on nine different players ahead of an offseason in which more significant roster turnover can be expected.

“We’re trying to assess situations, figure out how to get under the cap [and] what’s the best way to do that,” he added, via ESPN’s Sarah Barshop“We’ve had calls on a lot of our players. Probably other places trying to figure out what are we doing big picture and things like that. It’s been a busy off season discussing players.”

The Rams are currently $9.1MM over the cap, and like all other teams must get under the cap ceiling by Wednesday. Part of the process of putting themselves in a better financial situation could indicate a multi-year rebuild seeing Stafford, Donald and Kupp departing, but such an approach is unlikely at this point.

Rams Expected To Shut Down Aaron Donald

Never missing a game due to injury during his first eight NFL seasons, Aaron Donald is almost certain to miss six during this campaign. The Rams are likely to shut down the all-time great, who is battling a high ankle sprain.

Sean McVay ruled out Donald for the team’s Christmas Day game against the Broncos and said it is unlikely the seven-time All-Pro suits up again this season. Donald will join Matthew Stafford and Cooper Kupp among the high-profile Rams likely to be shelved for the rest of the season.

[RELATED: Stafford Does Not Intend To Retire]

Donald did make the Pro Bowl — er, the set of activities that now comprise that event — this week, making him 9-for-9 in such achievements. Only eight other players in NFL history — Hall of Famers Jim Brown, Franco Harris, Merlin Olsen, Mel Renfro, Barry Sanders, Lawrence Taylor, Derrick Thomas and future Hall of Famer Joe Thomas — have accomplished that feat. But this will still end as a disappointing season for Donald, who has two years remaining on his landmark extension.

This will wrap Donald’s age-31 season with just five sacks — his career-low tally by four — and 11 QB hits, which is also a career-low total. The Rams bet a lot on Donald, Stafford and Kupp this offseason, signing them to three- (Donald, Kupp) or four-year (Stafford) extensions. While the early returns were not good, it can be safely assumed on the Donald front the team will receive a reasonably good return on its investment. The Pitt alum is the best defensive player of his era and, as evidenced by Super Bowl LVI, displayed the capability at 30 of taking over games on the highest of stages.

The Rams gave Donald a three-year, $95MM deal in June, doing so after he repeatedly mentioned retirement. While that was partially aimed at getting the Rams to pay him in line with his monstrous production, after a few edge rushers had surpassed his 2018 deal, the nine-year veteran did send the team a retirement letter this offseason. He is tied to a $26MM cap number next season. The Rams guaranteed Donald’s 2023 money, but his 2024 cash is nonguaranteed. The sides will be able to huddle up after next season, placing more emphasis on the likes of Stafford and Kupp turning in healthy seasons to capitalize on the back end of Donald’s prime.

NFL Injury Rumors: Donald, Stafford, Walker, Queen

Rams star defensive tackle Aaron Donald reportedly has no intentions of joining star teammates quarterback Matthew Stafford and wide receiver Cooper Kupp on injured reserve this season, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network. Donald suffered a high ankle sprain last week in the team’s loss to the Chiefs, but the belief is that the injury is mild and Donald will be able to return this season.

Specifically, Donald has intentions of returning by Week 15 for a Sunday night matchup against the Packers. Donald has his ankle immobilized to promote its healing and is determined to make a comeback this season. Rapoport posits that “the way Donald is wired, he has no plans to shut it down regardless of the team’s record.”

Here are a couple of other injury rumors, starting with another one of the Rams injured stars:

  • Although it remains undetermined whether or not the Rams have any plans of bringing back their star quarterback, the newest updates indicate that Stafford’s recent placement on IR marks the end of his season, according to Jourdan Rodrigue of The Athletic. Head coach Sean McVay explained Stafford’s injury as a spinal cord contusion. With the team sitting at 3-9, good for last place in the NFC West, Los Angeles probably doesn’t think it’s worth the risk to trot the 34-year-old quarterback out on the field with so little on the line.
  • The Seahawks took some real lumps in their win over the Rams today, sustaining a litany of injuries to their running backs room. Already short primary backup Travis Homer, who was downgraded to out prior to kickoff after dealing with illness and a knee injury all week, both starter Kenneth Walker III and third-string DeeJay Dallas exited the game with ankle injuries. Walker was quickly ruled out for the rest of the game while Dallas was designated as doubtful to return, leaving the team with only fourth-string running back Tony Jones. Minutes later, Jones would take a big hit that would put him in the medical tent, forcing the previously doubtful Dallas to return to the game. Seattle has dealt with injuries in the position room all year. Aside from losing Rashaad Penny for the season, Walker joined the team late after a hernia surgery and Homer previously spent four weeks on IR. With all those absences, it’s no surprise the Seahawks picked Jones up off of waivers in October and are now carrying four running backs on the active roster. Nobody could’ve guessed that four wouldn’t be enough.
  • Ravens star quarterback Lamar Jackson wasn’t the only Baltimore player to leave the game with an injury earlier today. Starting linebacker Patrick Queen was carted off the field with a thigh injury and was ruled out for the remainder of what was a defensive slug fest against the Broncos. Head coach John Harbaugh was able to tell the media that x-rays were negative for the third-year linebacker and that Queen had been diagnosed with a thigh bruise. If the injury is serious, Queen could miss his first game since being drafted in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft. With veteran inside linebacker Josh Bynes also dealing with an injury, this would leave the Ravens fairly thin with newly acquired Roquan Smith and Malik Harrison to start and only special teamer Kristian Welch to relieve them, as another special teamer, Del’Shawn Phillips, also deals with an injury.