Just working, just grinding and we’re going to see what happens...All I can do is keep working, keeping myself in top shape and my agent’s going to handle that side of things.
That was Los Angeles Rams DT Aaron Donald’s response today on the SiriusXM Blitz when asked whether or not he’d be in attendance when training camp breaks late next month as veterans are expected to arrive July 28.
It’s a worrisome development. Donald was a no show when OTAs opened in late May; he was at the optional mandatory minicamp earlier this month though.
The Rams exercised the fifth-year option on Donald earlier this offseason ensuring he’s under contract for 2018. His status beyond next year is up in the air.
The problem of course is that the Rams have had a rough three years in the contract department. The Rams gave a contract extension to QB Nick Foles before he ever took a snap, soon after trading QB Sam Bradford to the Philadelphia Eagles to acquire him. That extension provided Foles with a guaranteed $6m bonus on the Rams’ books for the 2016 season, a bonus they paid out last January before releasing him last July.
The Foles saga closed just a few months prior to the Tavon Austin contract extension. The Rams had locked Austin in on his fifth-year option last May clearing him through the 2017 season. Somewhat surprisingly, the Rams then signed Austin to a massive extension last August. He’ll be the third highest-paid WR in the entire NFL this season.
And of course all this played out while “Priority A” fell apart. Rams GM Les Snead famously used the term to refer to the team’s effort to re-sign their secondary back during the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine. At the time, CB Trumaine Johnson, CB Janoris Jenkins and S Rodney McLeod were all headed toward free agency with expiring contracts. In the end, Trumaine Johnson was put on a franchise tag in 2016. And 2017. Jenkins joined the New York Giants, helping them make the playoffs last year with a Pro Bowl season. McLeod joined the Eagles. This offseason along with the successive tag for Tru, the Rams saw S T.J. McDonald exit via free agency ensuring that none of the four members of the 2015 Rams secondary were re-signed to a long-term deal as it stands.
None of this is lost on Donald’s agent. The Rams have shelled out tons of money to players who played well, well, well below Donald’s level. At the scale they’ve paid others, the Rams would need to make Donald the highest-paid defender, and perhaps player, in the NFL. Otherwise? Donald’s agent is sure to allow market offers to set his value.
As it stands, Donald is without a new contract. As long as the two sides can’t agree to a deal, the pressure’s going to grow on the Rams as Donald has all the leverage as one of the best players in the NFL negotiating with what has been one of the NFL’s worst teams for more than a decade.