Rumors of retirement if he doesn’t get a new deal, are just off-season talking.
Aaron Donald is the best defensive tackle in the NFL and perhaps the best defensive player in the entire league. Never has there been a defensive tackle who can close out games as Donald can. His mere presence on defense creates mismatches that other players exploit. The Rams obviously recognize this and despite rumors to the contrary, the Rams are working towards a new mega-deal for Donald.
Current Contract Details
Donald signed a 6-year, $135 million contract extension with the Rams on August 31, 2018. He received $50 million fully guaranteed at signing, including a $40 million signing bonus. Another $36.892 million is guaranteed for injury and will become fully guaranteed at a later date. Donald converted $18 million of his 2021 salary into a bonus to create $13.5 million in cap space. His cap number will increase by $4.5 million in the remaining three years of his contract.
Since that time several defensive players have signed contracts in excess of Donalds’ deal. Those players who are all edge rushers include:
- T.J. Watt, Pittsburgh Steelers: $28 million
- Joey Bosa, Los Angeles Chargers: $27 million
- Myles Garrett, Cleveland Browns: $25 million
- Maxx Crosby, Las Vegas Raiders: $23.5 million
- Khalil Mack, Los Angeles Chargers: $23.5 million
According to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, the Rams are working on a new record-breaking deal that will make him the NFL’s highest-paid defensive player. His new deal will be an extension that repackages his current contract with a healthy raise.
The Unstoppable AD Factor
After years of watching Aaron Donald’s play, I have never seen an interior lineman completely take over and close out games as Donald can. With eight years in the NFL and non-stop double teams and sometimes triple-teams, at age 30 he doesn’t appear to be slowing down a bit.
During the NFC Wild Card playoff, Donald dropped back, and as all teams do, their focus was on stopping Donald. This created confusion for the Cardinals. The Cardinals, already down two scores, were pinned back at their own 3-yard line thanks to an exceptional punt from Johnny Hekker. On a third-and-7, Murray tried to avoid a potential safety by tossing an underhand pass with Rams linebacker Troy Reeder about to wrap him up for a sack in the end zone. The result was a very ugly pick-six.
Again, against the 49’ers during the divisional round, with 1:46 left on the clock, the Rams took a 20-17 lead. After the Rams kickoff, with the 49’ers facing 3rd and 13 from their own 22-yard line, Donald once again closed the game out as only he can… sending the Rams into Super Bowl LVI.
Finally in Super Bowl LVI, after Cooper Kupps’ go-ahead touchdown, we see the AD factor once again. Have we ever seen a defensive player close out games and Aaron Donald does? I have not.
Recently Donald and his wife, Erica, sold their Calabasas, California, mansion for $6.258 million. While there were rumors of the three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year retiring. Those rumors quickly died down after he purchased another home $17 million home in the same neighborhood as the home of Rams QB Matthew Stafford and near where coach Sean McVay recently bought a home.
The future first-ballot Hall of Famer is reportedly seeking a deal that will pay him in the neighborhood of $30 million annually. It’s likely the Rams will structure the contract in a way that allows for the resigning of Odell Beckham Jr. and inking Cooper Kupp to a new extension. After that, the Rams are looking to restructure contracts for Sean McVay and Les Snead.
For all the rumors flying around… rest assured, those are just off-season rumors. A new deal will get done and Aaron Donald will reset the market for defensive linemen… until next year.