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.