Last season, Los Angeles Rams DL Aaron Donald made a show of his contractual situation with a protracted holdout. Heading into the final year of his rookie deal with the Rams exercising their fifth-year option on it to keep him locked up through 2018, Donald staged a holdout to draw attention to the tens of millions of dollars he was set to lose out on over the 2017 and 2018 seasons. Bleeding more than $30m to contractual restrictions, Donald skipped organized team activities in May. He came to minicamp though he didn’t participate in drills but then was again a no-show when training camp broke. Donald ended the holdout just prior to the Rams’ Week 1 game against the Indianapolis Colts, so Head Coach Sean McVay opted to keep him out of the rotation until Week 2. He then proceeded to have perhaps the best season to date in his four-year career.
A year later, it would seem we’re set to repeat the entire exercise.
Per the Los Angeles Times’ Gary Klein:
One of the team’s biggest stars almost certainly will not be part of the greeting party. Defensive lineman Aaron Donald, once again, is not expected to participate in the nine-week program. At least not until he gets a new contract.
Now it’s worth pointing out the qualifiers here. “Almost certainly.” “Not expected.” Those are hardly affirmed statements much like when Klein reported the Rams were “expected to consider” using a franchise tag on WR Sammy Watkins. They might have ultimately “considered” it, though it did them little service as the Rams instead used the tag on S Lamarcus Joyner freeing Watkins to exit via free agency and sign with the Kansas City Chiefs. So perhaps this is just another source with the Rams offering Klein misguided speculation.
Still, the bottom line remains. Donald is one of the best players in the NFL perhaps the best player overall. He’s playing far below what he would earn on the market right now. And he’s playing next to DL Ndamukong Suh who was able to earn a one-year market rate with the Rams before seeking a second major multi-year deal a year from now. Holding out might be the only way to gain the slightest portions of leverage in a situation that, per design of the collective bargaining agreement, is designed to give as much as possible of it to teams.
So here’s to a holdout. Donald deserved more than the $1.8m he was paid year. He deserves more than the $6.9m he’ll get this year. He’s earned it.