Aaron Donald

Aaron Donald Sent Rams Retirement Letter

Although Aaron Donald‘s retirement threat came as his once-record-setting contract had been passed by a handful of defensive players, the future first-ballot Hall of Famer took action on that front in May. Donald’s agent sent the Rams a letter informing them of the seven-time All-Pro’s intention to retire, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports.

The letter, addressed to Roger Goodell, never ended up being sent. But as of May 9, Donald, 31, remained disgruntled to the point he told the team he would walk away. The Rams had begun negotiations with Donald about redoing his deal — a six-year, $136MM pact that ran through 2024 — months earlier, but Rapoport adds the talks did not look promising late in the spring. Donald’s retirement intention — be it genuine or a negotiating tactic — certainly had an effect.

[RELATED: Donald Planned Retirement If Sean McVay Left]

Shortly before the Rams received the letter in May, Donald and his agent held a Zoom call with team brass to discuss the contract. The retirement rumors that had swirled since Super Bowl LVI came up, and Rapoport adds the Rams had begun discussing how to properly celebrate Donald’s career at one point. But the conversations took on a more positive tone in the days and weeks that followed, leading to Donald’s landmark raise — a three-year, $95MM accord that did not add any years to Donald’s previous Rams deal — in June.

Excepting first-round quarterbacks, teams rarely do extensions for players with more than one year of control left. Donald agreeing to a six-year deal back in 2018 — a year after a contract holdout bled into the regular season — limited his options this time around. Khalil Mack‘s Bears extension came in $1MM north (AAV-wise) of Donald’s days after the latter’s initial Rams re-up. In the three offseasons that followed, Myles Garrett, Joey Bosa, T.J. Watt and Maxx Crosby signed contracts that topped Donald’s average salary. Watt’s $28MM-per-year extension eclipsed Donald’s by more than $5MM, putting the Rams dynamo in an unusual place of being arguably the game’s best player but slipping well off the pace contractually.

Donald’s agent proposed the framework of adding money to Donald’s deal but no new years, Rapoport notes. In addition to turning the possibility of his absence’s effect on the Rams’ defense, Donald’s retirement letter’s timing also involved the Rams’ cap situation. Donald retiring before June 1 would have meant a $21.5MM Rams cap hit. After the financially pivotal June 1 date, that Donald hit would have dropped to $9MM. That gave the Rams a clear incentive to keep talking with Donald, rather than sending his retirement letter to the league office.

The Rams had already extended Matthew Stafford, who was going into a contract year, and had been talking with Cooper Kupp. The All-Pro slot receiver had two years left on his 2020 extension. Kupp is now signed long-term as well. Of the Rams’ three major 2022 contract agreements, only Donald’s contains void years. The Rams also included a no-trade clause in Donald’s deal. Donald’s 2024 money ($30MM, via a $20MM option bonus and $10MM base salary) does not become guaranteed until Day 5 of the 2024 league year. That looks to be the next key point on the Donald timeline.

Although the edge rusher market moved well past Donald’s second Rams contract, no defensive tackle has secured a deal north of the Rams superstar’s previous $22.5MM-AAV price. The Rams rewarding Donald also stands to benefit interior D-linemen. Donald’s $31.7MM-per-year average sits a whopping $10.7MM north of any other D-tackle’s terms. DeForest Buckner and Leonard Williams are tied to $21MM-per-year salaries. Chris Jones is in Year 3 of a $20MM-AAV pact. Jones, the Titans’ Jeffery Simmons and potentially others figure to be in position to bridge the gap between Donald and the field in the not-too-distant future.

NFC West Notes: Donald, Hawks, 49ers

Right up until his landmark summer contract agreement, Aaron Donald teased retirement. The all-time great is going into his age-31 season, but during the negotiations with the Rams, Donald said he knows he has at least three more years in the NFL. The Rams had Donald under contract through 2024, via the 2018 extension he signed, but gave the seven-time All-Pro a straight raise in June. He is now signed to a defender-record $31.7MM per year through 2024.

I think myself and the front office, talking with his reps, were really: ‘OK, if Aaron wants to play football, then really it’s on us to figure out a way to get the money right. Aaron shouldn’t retire because of us,'” Rams GM Les Snead said, via the New York Times’ Emmanuel Morgan. “The third part, and I think Aaron did a really nice job, is because he was actually honest and said, ‘Look, I know I got three years.’ Then it’s working creatively to be able to reward Aaron, but also engineer a contract where if he does retire in three years, it doesn’t punish the club for the future.”

Donald, whose deal also includes a no-trade clause, recently connected his future to Sean McVay‘s. This accord came during an offseason in which the Rams also extended Matthew Stafford and Cooper Kupp. The latter’s deal also came with multiple years remaining on his previous contract. Here is more from the NFC West:

  • Seahawks rookie running back Kenneth Walker represents a key part of the team’s backfield equation, one that recently lost Chris Carson to retirement. Walker will not be available for a bit, with Pete Carroll indicating the second-round pick is battling “a little hernia thing” that may sidetrack him for the rest of the preseason. The Seahawks are now targeting Week 1 for Walker’s return, Brady Henderson of ESPN.com notes (Twitter links). Walker has already undergone surgery to address the problem, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. Seattle re-signed Rashaad Penny in March, and while the injury-prone back missed time recently because of a groin issue, he returned to practice Tuesday.
  • In addition to Walker being out for the Seahawks’ second preseason game, the team’s quarterback competition will see one of its members down for that contest. Drew Lock contracted COVID-19 and will miss the Seahawks’ Thursday tilt against the Bears. Already behind Geno Smith in vying to succeed Russell Wilson, with Carroll saying Tuesday that Smith remains “the No. 1 guy,” Lock will be shut down by the NFL’s current COVID protocols. Players are no longer required to be moved off the roster for virus reasons, but they must isolate for at least five days after testing positive.
  • Mike McGlinchey played eight snaps in the 49ers’ first preseason game, returning from the torn quadriceps injury he suffered in November. But Kyle Shanahan said the veteran right tackle experienced knee irritation after the preseason action, Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle notes. While the sixth-year HC added the PRP procedure McGlinchey underwent is not connected to the surgery had reattaching his quad tendon to the kneecap, it should be something to monitor here. McGlinchey is in a contract year, and the 49ers let his 2021 backup — Tom Compton — sign with the Broncos. Colton McKivitz, who spent most of last year on the team’s practice squad, is in place as McGlinchey’s backup.
  • Cardinals running backs coach James Saxon is on administrative leave stemming from two domestic battery charges, Josh Weinfuss of ESPN.com reports. These charges stem from an alleged May incident in Indianapolis, per Weinfuss, who adds one of the charges is a Level 6 felony for an alleged assault on a woman in front of a child under the age of 16. The Level 6 charge in Indiana comes with a sentence of six months to 2 1/2 years in prison. The other charge is a Class A misdemeanor. Saxon, 56, has been an NFL assistant since 2000 and with the Cardinals since 2019.

Latest On Aaron Donald’s Playing Future

Among the many moves made this offseason by the Rams was a re-working of Aaron Donald‘s contract. No new years were added to his existing pact, but the future Hall of Famer received a record-setting raise in the process. 

That provided more clarity on Donald’s immediate playing future – something which was in question especially after the Rams won the Super Bowl, and has been speculated on in conjunction with that of head coach Sean McVay. Recent comments from the d-lineman confirm that their football fates are in fact intertwined.

When asked if he still would have played in 2022 had McVay stepped aside in favor of a broadcasting role, Donald said (via NFL.com’s Bobby Kownack), “not at all. I told Sean when he first got here. We came up with some things early and I first told him as long as he’s the head coach here, I want to continue to build my legacy with him. As long as he’s here and I got the ability to still play at a high level, I’m going to be here.”

McVay will coach for at least the upcoming season, though progress is being made on an extension which will keep him in the fold for several years beyond that. The end of his Rams tenure could very easily be the end of Donald’s as well, though, as he also said, “when [McVay’s] gone and it’s all said and done, that probably will be when I’m hanging it up, too.”

Donald, 31, is under contract for another two years, but he has hardly slowed down with age. Now the league’s highest-paid non-QB under his new deal, he is set to earn $95MM over that term. McVay is likewise in line for a raise when his extension is finalized, setting the pair up to continue the success they have enjoyed together. How long they will remain in their current positions will be a consistent storyline in the short- and medium-term future.

Largest 2022 Cap Hits: Defense

After looking at this year’s top salary cap numbers on the offensive side of the ball, here is a rundown of the players counting the most toward their teams’ payrolls in 2022.

As could be expected, the salary figures here start below the quarterbacks. A few pass rushers, however, are tied to notable cap hits. Those numbers that check in within the top 20 leaguewide regardless of position. With the exception of true nose tackles and pure slot cornerbacks, every defensive position is represented here.

Here are the top cap figures on the defensive side for the ’22 season:

  1. T.J. Watt, OLB (Steelers): $31.12MM
  2. Chris Jones, DT (Chiefs): $29.42MM
  3. Joey Bosa, OLB (Chargers): $28.25MM
  4. Leonard Williams, DL (Giants): $27.3MM
  5. Aaron Donald, DT (Rams): $27MM
  6. Jalen Ramsey, CB (Rams): $23.2MM
  7. Deion Jones, LB (Falcons): $20.1MM
  8. Bud Dupree, OLB (Titans): $19.2MM
  9. Justin Simmons, S (Broncos): $18.85MM
  10. Javon Hargrave, DT (Eagles): $17.8MM
  11. C.J. Mosley, LB (Jets): $17.5MM
  12. Cameron Heyward, DL (Steelers): $17.42MM
  13. Robert Quinn, DE (Bears): $17.14MM
  14. Matt Judon, OLB (Patriots): $16.5MM
  15. DeForest Buckner, DT (Colts): $16MM
  16. Shaquill Griffin, CB (Jaguars): $16.44MM
  17. Tre’Davious White, CB (Bills): $16.4MM
  18. J.J. Watt, DL (Cardinals): $15.9MM
  19. Marcus Peters, CB (Ravens): $15.5MM
  20. Carl Lawson, DE (Jets): $15.33MM
  21. Eddie Jackson, S (Bears): $15.1MM
  22. Lavonte David, LB (Buccaneers): $14.79MM
  23. Budda Baker, S (Cardinals): $14.78MM
  24. Romeo Okwara, DE (Lions): $14.5MM
  25. Trey Hendrickson, DE (Bengals): $14.49MM
  • Illustrating how much the cap has climbed over the past several seasons, T.J. Watt is tied to a number nearly twice that of J.J. Watt, who has been tied to $16.7MM-per-year (a defender-record number in 2014) and $14MM-AAV deals as a pro. Trailing his older brother in Defensive Player of the Year honors, T.J. is signed to an edge defender-record $28MM-per-year accord.
  • Jones’ four-year Chiefs deal vaults from an $8.5MM cap number in 2021 to the league’s second-highest defensive figure this year. The standout defensive tackle’s cap hit accompanies Patrick Mahomes‘ $35.79MM number, which is well north of his 2021 figure, on Kansas City’s new-look payroll.
  • After two franchise tags, Williams scored a monster extension in 2021. The well-paid Giants D-lineman’s cap number this year is way up from his 2021 number ($9.4MM).
  • The Rams redid Donald’s contract last month, adding no new years to the through-2024 pact. The all-world defender’s cap hit actually decreases in 2023, dropping to $26MM
  • It is not certain Deion Jones will be back with the Falcons, who have jettisoned other Super Bowl LI cornerstones from the roster since the current regime took over in 2021. But they would save just $1MM were they to release the seventh-year linebacker.
  • To date, this represents the high-water mark for Mosley cap hits on his Jets deal, which at the time (2019) began a sea change for off-ball linebacker contracts. Mosley’s cap hit, on a pact that runs through 2024 because of the linebacker opting out of the 2020 season, increased by $10MM from 2021-22.
  • Hargrave is one of five Eagles pass rushers signed to veteran contracts. The ex-Steeler’s 2021 deal accompanies Brandon Graham, Josh Sweat, Haason Reddick, and Fletcher Cox‘s new agreement on Philadelphia’s defensive front. As cap hits do not reflect average salaries, Hargrave is the only member of this quartet tied to an eight-figure cap number in 2022.
  • Quinn has also been connected to a departure, with the 31-year-old pass rusher skipping minicamp after it became known he would like to be traded away from the rebuilding team. His cap hit tops the Bears’ payroll. The Bears would save $12.9MM by trading Quinn, should another team sign up for taking on his full 2022 base salary.

NFC West Notes: Hawks, Davis-Price, Rams

Not big on making big cornerback investments, with Richard Sherman‘s 2014 extension the exception, the Seahawks have some questions at the position ahead of training camp. A year after the team let Shaquill Griffin walk in free agency, 2021 starter D.J. Reed joined the Jets in March. The Seahawks did not use a first- or second-day draft pick at corner and, while they brought back Justin Coleman in the slot, have some uncertainty in how they will replace Reed. One option will be Artie Burns, the former Steelers first-round pick who signed a one-year, $2MM deal. Burns, 27, lined up opposite Sidney Jones with Seattle’s first-team defense at minicamp, Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times notes. Burns, who worked as a late-season starter with the Bears last season, has not been looked upon as a primary starter since the Steelers benched him in 2018. A pair of fourth-round picks — second-year cover man Tre Brown and rookie Coby Bryant — loom as options as well. Brown did not participate in minicamp, due to the knee injury that ended his rookie slate. After nearly four years after his Steelers starter run wrapped, Burns has a chance to carve out a key role with his third team.

Here is the latest from the NFC West:

  • The 49ers Tyrion Davis-Price third-round pick was somewhat surprising, but bolstering a backfield featuring other notable assets may be a two-fold solution. While the 49ers have starter Elijah Mitchell, backup Jeff Wilson and 2021 third-rounder Trey Sermon, Albert Breer of SI.com notes the selection of the LSU running back choice doubled as an “olive branch” of sorts to Deebo Samuel. Kyle Shanahan using Samuel as a between-the-tackles back last season is believed to be one of the gripes the disgruntled wide receiver had when he made his trade request in April. Davis-Price joining the backfield will provide more insurance so that Samuel — his 6.2 yards-per-carry figure notwithstanding — will not be needed for such a role in 2022. The 49ers continue to work toward a Samuel extension.
  • The Rams‘ big-ticket extensions for Aaron Donald and Cooper Kupp will create a bit of cap room in 2022. The defending Super Bowl champions are gaining $3.63MM in space, Field Yates of ESPN.com tweets, with Donald tied to a $24MM cap number and Kupp tethered to a $17.8MM figure. Los Angeles’ Donald and Kupp deals occurred two days apart. Donald is now the game’s highest-paid non-quarterback, while Kupp’s new pact checks in at $26.7MM per year — fourth among wideouts — and carries a receiver-high $75MM guaranteed.
  • Shifting back to the Seahawks, they set to return their 2021 guard duo — Gabe Jackson and Damien Lewis — but their oldest O-lineman will be returning from offseason knee surgery, per Condotta. Jackson, 30, missed OTAs and the Seahawks’ minicamp because of the procedure. The former Raiders starter is going into his ninth season. Because of the new contract the Seahawks gave Jackson last year, he is set to count $9MM toward their 2022 cap. Jackson only missed one game in his first Seahawks season.
  • Staying on the Seahawks’ O-line, the team will feature a right tackle competition in camp. Rookie Abraham Lucas will vie for the job against second-year blockers Jake Curhan and Stone Forsythe, Condotta adds. A former UDFA, Curhan started five games last season. Forsythe, who has mostly worked as a left tackle during his short career, played just 14 offensive snaps as a rookie. Second-year Seattle OC Shane Waldron said he does not have an issue starting two rookies at tackle; No. 9 overall pick Charles Cross is set to succeed Duane Brown on the left side.

Rams Included No-Trade Clause In Aaron Donald’s Revised Contract

The Rams both rewarded a player with three years left on his deal and did so without adding any additional years to the contract. While two void years are present in Aaron Donald‘s reworked pact, via Albert Breer of SI.com, the future Hall of Fame defensive tackle can still hit free agency in 2025.

More sweeteners are present in Donald’s groundbreaking three-year, $95MM accord. The Rams included a no-trade clause as well, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com tweets. Only a handful of players hold no-trade clauses, which force teams to send a player to an approved destination. This impacted the Russell Wilson and Deshaun Watson trades earlier this year.

With the guaranteed money ($65MM; $46.5MM fully guaranteed) included in the deal’s first two seasons, the Rams are tied to Donald through at least 2023. Ahead of the 2024 league year, the parties can reassess the situation. A $30MM package — $10MM in base salary, $20MM via option bonus — becomes guaranteed on the fifth day of the 2024 league year. Money was not the only reason Donald considered retirement. Spending much of the year in Los Angeles and away from his hometown (Pittsburgh) factored into the uncertainty as well, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk notes.

Donald, 31, spends extensive time in Pittsburgh during the offseason. The prospect of playing closer to home could become relevant in the future, and Donald’s no-trade clause would allow him to direct a move to a team that plays in or near his hometown. The prospect of a player seeking to leave Los Angeles for a less glamorous city is interesting, though we are a ways away from this becoming relevant.

Monday’s agreement will almost certainly ensure Donald plays his age-31 and age-32 seasons with the Rams. While the league’s only active seven-time All-Pro may not be on the level he currently is by 2024, Donald has no notable injury history (zero injury-related absences in eight seasons) and has stacked all seven All-Pro honors back-to-back. His 2014 debut, which still produced Defensive Rookie of the Year acclaim, represents Donald’s lone non-All-Pro campaign. If Donald wishes to keep playing in 2024, he will almost certainly carry considerable value.

His value bolstered somewhat by playing alongside Donald during last season’s second half, Von Miller secured a six-year, $120MM Bills deal ($51MM guaranteed) ahead of his age-33 season. Donald mentioned late last month he long ago set eight seasons as a potential retirement benchmark. Monday’s news likely moved that to 10. More seasons obviously stand to further Donald’s case as the greatest defensive player in NFL history.

Rams Give Aaron Donald Record-Setting Raise

Aaron Donald will be back with the Rams in 2022 and likely into the mid-2020s. The team gave the perennial All-Pro defensive tackle a raise. While no new years were added to Donald’s through-2024 deal, he will receive considerably more cash than he would have under the terms of his 2018 extension.

Donald, who has discussed retirement for months, is now set to earn a whopping $95MM by 2024, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. The 31-year-old pass rusher will collect a $40MM raise on his old deal, Rapoport tweets, and again become the highest-paid non-quarterback in the game — a title the future Hall of Famer held for a few days prior to Khalil Mack topping him four years ago.

The eight-year veteran is returning to his place anchoring the Rams’ defense. The seven-time All-Pro is set to collect $65MM over the next two years of his contract, per Rapoport. It will be interesting to see if the Rams added void years to spread out the cap hits. The Rams have announced Donald’s return; he reported to the team’s facility Monday ahead of minicamp.

As far as guarantees go, Donald will receive a $25MM signing bonus and $6.5MM in additional 2022 guarantees, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk reports. His $13.5MM 2023 base salary shifts from an injury guarantee to a full guarantee on Day 3 of the 2023 league year. A $5MM roster bonus also will come Donald’s way if he is a Ram on Day 2 of the ’23 league year. Donald can collect the final $30MM if he remains a Ram on Day 5 of the 2024 league year. If Donald intends to play in 2024, the Rams would pay him a $20MM option bonus and $10MM base salary, Florio adds. No offset language is present.

This allows the team some flexibility beyond 2023, but Donald has been one of the NFL’s most durable players throughout his career. Donald would not reach free agency until the offseason ahead of his age-34 campaign. Still, the all-world defender’s through-2024 sum and his not being forced to add any new years to the deal illustrates both his value and the seriousness of his retirement threat. Donald’s previous contract carried a $23.5MM 2023 cap charge. The biggest difference of the pre- and post-raise cap hits will be a $38MM cap charge next year, Jason Fitzgerald of OverTheCap.com estimates. Void years are indeed present here, per SI.com’s Albert Breer (on Twitter).

Retirement rumors emerged shortly before Super Bowl LVI’s kickoff, and while Donald seemed to backtrack at the team’s parade, he still mentioned leaving the game after eight seasons last week. Sean McVay and Les Snead insisted throughout the offseason the team would take care of Donald, with McVay expressing confidence last week. It is fairly clear now why that was the case.

Money always hovered at the forefront here. Although no interior D-linemen passed up Donald in earnings over the course of his second NFL contract, several edge players did. T.J. Watt‘s $28MM-per-year pact topped the defender market entering the week. Tied to what amounts to a three-year, $95MM deal, Donald is the first non-quarterback to secure a contract north of $30MM per year.

Wide receivers made inroads toward the $30MM-per-year mark this offseason, but it took inflated figures in the final years of Davante Adams and Tyreek Hill‘s deals to balloon those contracts to their $28MM-AAV and $30MM-AAV marks. By not adding any new years on Donald’s contract, the Rams have moved into new territory with Monday’s deal. Given Donald’s resume and impact in the Rams’ second Super Bowl win, it is tough to argue he did not deserve a significant raise.

Since going 13th overall in the 2014 draft, Donald has become one of the greatest players in NFL history. Only Donald, J.J. Watt and Lawrence Taylor have won Defensive Player of the Year acclaim three times. The Pitt alum has maintained top form into his 30s, as evidenced by his Super Bowl-sealing takedown of Joe Burrow, which punctuated a dominant performance. Donald is the only active player to be named a first-team All-Pro seven times. The player with the second-most such honors among active performers, Bobby Wagner (six), will join him in L.A. this season. Donald has only missed two games in his career — both due to a 2017 holdout.

The Rams have taken care of their offensive and defensive pillars this offseason, with the Donald deal following their Matthew Stafford extension. The team remains at work on augmenting Cooper Kupp‘s contract, following his stratospheric 2021 season.

Sean McVay Comments On Aaron Donald Situation

We recently wrote about some comments made by Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald during an appearance on the I Am Athlete podcast. Donald’s comments echoed sentiments we heard after the team’s Super Bowl victory that the 31-year-old might be done playing football after eight years in the league. Specifically, Donald seemed to indicate that if he and the Rams can’t come to an agreement on a new contract, he would be “at peace” with his career coming to a close. 

Earlier this week, Rams head coach Sean McVay remarked on the comments and his view of the situation with Donald, according to Cameron DaSilva of USA Today. “We’ve had great dialogue,” McVay stated. “The goal all along has been to try to get this thing figured out, but also like I’ve said, if there’s anybody that’s earned the right to make the decision on their own terms…it’s Aaron.”

McVay went on to frame the situation in an optimistic light. “Things are trending in the right direction,” he continued. “We have regular dialogue with Aaron and 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 for the Rams leading the way.”

Donald currently has three years remaining on his six-year, $135MM contract. He’s only due to make $14.25MM next year, though, and Donald is seeking a raise based on everything he’s done for the Rams since signing that deal in 2018. Donald hasn’t appeared at OTAs this year, but that’s hardly out of the ordinary for the completely voluntary workouts.

When asked if Donald will be at mandatory minicamp next week, McVay expressed some hope. “I think so. That’s the plan right now, so we’ll see. I sure hope so, so I don’t have to answer your questions next week about it,” McVay joked. “No, I think he’ll be here. That’s the plan.”

Aaron Donald Addresses Contract Situation, Retirement Rumors

This era’s premier defensive player has still not definitively said he will play again in 2022, though this situation continues to lean that way. The Rams and Aaron Donald have been discussing a contract adjustment for several weeks, and the future Hall of Famer confirmed the retirement rumors are at least partially contract-related.

Donald, who turned 31 last week, is tied to his 2018 extension, one that briefly represented an defender-record deal (six years, $135MM). But several players have passed the all-world defensive tackle in the years since.

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,” Donald said during an appearance on the I Am Athlete podcast (via Bleacher Report’s Erin Walsh). “But again, it’s still a business, and we got to handle the business side of things, and if that wasn’t to get handled then, you know, [it’s an] it-is-what-it-is type of situation.

I’ll be fine regardless, but me talking about retirement, that was happening way before we won a Super Bowl. I’ve been saying that since I got into the league I was going to play eight years and be done. That’s just what I’ve been saying. … If I was to play, it’s just to win another Super Bowl, but at the end of the day, it’s still a business and it got to make sense to me and my family.”

The Rams have been on this for months now. They have hammered out a Matthew Stafford extension and have since turned their attention to two players who still have multiple years of team control remaining. Donald and Cooper Kupp are signed through 2024 and 2023, respectively, but have outplayed their contracts. Donald is now the NFL’s sixth-highest-paid defender; Kupp is the league’s 18th-highest-paid receiver. It is not known if Kupp will receive a full-blown new deal, but the next Rams-Donald transaction is expected to be an extension — rather than a restructure or a mere one-year salary bump.

Donald’s 2022 cap number marks the highest on his current deal ($26.75MM). The Rams can lower that via an extension. Although teams do not make a habit of redoing the deals of players signed for three more seasons, Donald is now a seven-time All-Pro who will coast to first-ballot Canton enshrinement. The Rams’ chances of repeating as Super Bowl champions would take a major hit without Donald, who has never missed a game due to injury. His only absences (two in 2017) came due to a holdout.

Later during his podcast interview, Donald said this situation will “probably” be resolved, via The Athletic’s Jourdan Rodrigue (on Twitter). It will be interesting what numbers the sides land on, if indeed a new deal comes to pass. T.J. Watt is currently the NFL’s highest-paid player, at $28MM per year. Donald becoming the league’s first $30MM-per-year defender is well within the realm of possibility, given his seven straight All-Pro nods, joining Lawrence Taylor and J.J. Watt as a three-time Defensive Player of the Year honoree, and the impact the Pittsburgh native made in the Rams’ Super Bowl LVI win.

Latest On Rams DL Aaron Donald

Aaron Donald‘s next contract with the Rams could be more than just a raise. According to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, Donald’s next deal will likely be an extension.

The three-time Defensive Player of the Year has three years remaining on his current deal, which he signed in 2018 following a holdout one year earlier. While Donald’s current deal once reset the market, the going rate for top defensive players is now around $28MM. The star defensive tackle is currently making $22.5MM per year, so there’s a bit of a gap to make up between the two sides.

As Fowler notes, the retirement rumblings coming out of Donald’s camp were “real,” and they may have been influenced by his contract. Per the reporter, Donald has a certain “number he will play for,” so the Rams will have to pony up if they want him on the field next season. While contract talks were previously described as “nothing but positive,” Fowler cautions that Donald could still hang up his cleats if his demands aren’t met.

An extension would be an interesting tactic for the Rams to take. By adding extra years to the three remaining three years on Donald’s contract, the Rams would be locking themselves into the player through his mid-30s. However, as Fowler notes, this would be the team’s best path to spread cap space and retain their core.

While Donald wasn’t able to defend his Defensive Player of the Year award in 2021, he still had a standout campaign, earning his seventh-straight first-team All-Pro nod. Donald finished the season with a career-high 84 tackles to go along with 12.5 sacks, 25 QB hits, and four forced fumbles.