Over the past few offseasons, there has been a lot of speculation on Aaron Donald and his future in the NFL. Donald was close to retirement after winning the Super Bowl and those rumors swirled up again this offseason. The only thing anybody really knows is that Donald’s time left with the Los Angeles Rams is likely limited.
This is what makes the Rams’ “re-model” plan in 2023 so hard to take. By accepting 8-9 wins this season or maybe sneaking into the playoffs, they are essentially wasting a year of Donald.
While the plan is to compete in 2024, there’s no guarantee that Donald will still be playing. NFL.com’s Adam Schein wrote an article this week headlining the star players around the league who need the most help from the 2023 NFL Draft.
Here’s what Schein had to say,
“Les Snead and Sean McVay used an Ocean’s Eleven approach to team-building — swapping draft picks for established NFL stars — and netted a Lombardi Trophy. Unfortunately, Ocean’s Twelve was an epic flop for the Rams in 2022, as their Super Bowl title defense quickly devolved into a 5-12 disaster...Fresh off his ninth consecutive Pro Bowl season, Donald is still playing at an extremely high level...He just needs some support on a defense that will now be operating without Ramsey, Wagner, Taylor Rapp, Greg Gaines and Nick Scott, among others. It’s time for Snead and Co. to fill some of those gaps with fresh talent. While the “Eff them picks” Rams don’t have a first-rounder, they do have 11 selections to play with. Support Donald by uncovering some draft gems on Days 2 and 3, which has been a strength of this Rams regime.
It’s hard to disagree with much anything that Schein has to say. The Rams defensive talent has been complete ripped out and will be replaced with less experienced and lesser talented players. The defense will likely be able to overcome the losses of Taylor Rapp. The same can be said about Nick Scott and Greg Gaines to an extent.
However, the losses of Bobby Wagner and Jalen Ramsey will almost certainly be felt across the board. Ramsey made the players around him in the secondary better. Wagner helped the Rams have one of the better run defenses in the NFL last season.
The Rams way the Rams defense is built is as if a director cast “The Rock” in a movie and filled the supporting cast with C- actors. At the end of the day “Skyscraper” was a fine movie. However, it’s probably not a film that you’d see again.
Donald is entering the twilight of his career. If the Rams don’t have a good draft and don’t show promise heading into 2024, Donald could outright retire or even ask for a trade where the Rams would save $5.6M.
Every draft is important. With that said, it’s hard not to argue that this is the most important draft of the Les Snead and Sean McVay era. Heading into 2017, that team didn’t have expectations. However, that class paired with McVay’s hire changed the trajectory of the Rams franchise. This draft class has the power to do the same, but after two Super Bowl appearances, the bar is set much higher.
There’s a lot that hinges on the success of the 2023 draft class and Aaron Donald’s future might be one of them.