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As Ndamukong Suh heads to LA to meet with Los Angeles Rams, the Aaron Donald contract extension looms as the elephant in the room

The Rams could very well sign one of the best defenders in the NFL to a lucrative deal. And I’m not talking about Aaron Donald.

Los Angeles Rams DL Aaron Donald
Los Angeles Rams DL Aaron Donald
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

DL Ndamukong Suh is on his way to LA to meet with the Los Angeles Rams brass today:

It would undoubtedly be a huge signing in locking up one of the NFL’s best defensive linemen joining an already impressive defensive front backed up by a phenomenal secondary coached by one of the NFL’s best defensive coordinators in Wade Phillips.

It would also be a cause for concern for DL Aaron Donald’s future as a Ram.

Last summer, Donald made headlines by holding out of training camp seemingly miffed by the Rams’ offer. And though he re-joined the team prior to Week 1, he didn’t feature in the Rams’ 46-9 season opening win over the Indianapolis Colts. After that? Well, he was Aaron Donald. He was as good as ever finishing as Pro Football Focus’ #1 player in the entire NFL.

So what has changed since that holdout that saw tons (a majority?) of Rams fans turn on the most dominant player in the league? I’m not sure.

Donald and his representatives are sure to know his market value. The Rams knew it and made their offer. It’s not as if Donald’s play changed. In that link above where I mentioned that Donald was put off by the Rams’ offer last summer, ESPN’s Adam Schefter talked about some of the market terms for Donald’s extension. It’s old hat at this point.

And it’s still not done.

Rams General Manager Les Snead said last week the Rams and Donald’s representation have “a timeline” in place to negotiate a contract extension. All that means is they’ve got a meeting somewhere on the calendar. What remains true for Donald is that he’s stuck. The Rams can franchise tag him for the next two years if they so choose, and in both years Donald would be playing for less than a new deal would likely pay him for those seasons.

Suh signed a massive six-year deal with the Dolphins in 2015. The deal guaranteed $60m and paid Suh just more than $19m per year. Suh was 28-years old at the time; Donald will turn 27 in May. The salary cap is $34m higher this year than it was when Suh inked his deal with Miami. So suffice to say, Donald is looking for a historic deal. And he deserves it.

And the Rams aren’t in any position to provide it right now. Which is what makes signing Suh such a delicate issue.

Aaron Donald is watching Ndamukong Suh coming in off of raking in $60m in three years set to land another lucrative contract while making less than $7m this year. Suh could well hit a one-year payday with the Rams and then bank another multi-year contract next offseason:

And with the apparent lesson from Suh’s original deal being that the Dolphins screwed themselves, Donald is looking at the version of his free agent fortunes he’s been unable to enjoy.

Mike Florio explored this at Pro Football Talk yesterday:

With defensive tackle Aaron Donald entering the final year of his rookie contract and in light of the fact that he skipped all of training camp and the preseason last year in order to make a stand, can the Rams pay Suh without first paying Donald?

Some would say it’s apples and oranges. What ultimately matters is what Donald would think, if all of a sudden money that could be/should be going to him is going to someone else who plays the same position.


No defensive player in recent years (if ever) has gotten a market-level contract with one or more years left on his current deal. If that’s what Donald wants (and many would say that’s what he deserves), he may have to play one more year to get there. Or he may have to take less than market value in recognition of the fact that the Rams are absorbing a year of injury risk that Miller and Suh both carried before getting paid big money.

However it plays out, there’s a reason a deal hasn’t already been finalized — and there are reasons to wonder whether the two sides will find common ground before the 2018 season commences. Pursuing Suh adds an extra element of intrigue to the lingering question of when, and how much, Aaron Donald will be paid.

One of the great James Bond theme songs is Nancy Sinatra’s You Only Live Twice, a song with such heft it was used (perfectly) in the final moments of Mad Men’s Season 5. The opening stanza contains the eternal dichotomy:

You only live twice
Or so it seems
One life for yourself
And one for your dreams

Aaron Donald is sitting at home as his contractual dream life is walking through the door at Rams HQ today.

And at some point, he’s going to have a decision to make.

This dream is for you
So pay the price
Make one dream come true
You only live twice

(UPDATED at 10:20pm ET)

Suffice to say, the Rams are keenly aware of the sensitivity required here: