Ed "Pi Double i" Henderson
The inconceivable contract feud between the reigning 2017 NFL Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald and the Los Angeles Rams has finally ended. The Rams and Donald agreed on a massive long-term deal for six years $135M paying him the unbelievable of $22.5M a year. The contract will include his salary among the highest paid quarterbacks in the league many said he would never ascertain. It also has been reported that of Donald’s new deal; $87M of the new contract is fully guaranteed, and a $40M signing bonus, making him the highest paid defensive lineman in the league.
Strangely enough, Donald's deal was finalized just days after Khalil Mack, the 2016 NFL Defensive Player of the Year and Oakland Raiders pro bowl linebacker, indicated he was seeking $23M per season. Donald gestured a hint via social media of a tweet displaying an hourglass as indicating was time running out before their week one preseason matchup against the Baltimore Ravens.
Fletcher Cox, the pro-bowl defensive tackle of the Philadelphia Eagles, signed a six-year $102M contract, with $63M fully guaranteed and earning $17M per season. Von Miller, linebacker of the Denver Broncos, currently holds the highest guaranteed deal of all defensive players of $70M, a contract he signed four seasons ago.
Donald is currently playing in the final year of his rookie contract that pays him $6.39M this season. The pro bowl defensive tackle for the second consecutive year has held out of training camp in efforts of trying to seek a long-term deal with the Rams. Todd Gurley, the 2017 NFL Offensive Player of the Year, signed a new deal this pre-season to a four year $60M deal, guaranteeing him $45M of the contract. The Rams traded their first-round draft pick of the 2018 NFL Draft to the New England Patriots for wide-receiver Brandin Cooks. Cooks and the Rams shortly after agreed on a six-year $88M deal guaranteeing him $50.5M, that sent many in disarray because of Donald was still holding out seeking a new contract.
Nonetheless, the long anticipated wait is over, and Donald can get back to work to join one of the leagues much tough defensive line since the Fearsome Foursome of the 60's and 70's. Rams added pro bowl defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh this past offseason adding another former first rounder and dominant lineman of the game. With Suh, Michael Brockers and Donald on the defensive line will create a mismatch for opposing offensive linemen. Rams have much depth on the defensive lineman with fifth-year undrafted free-agent Ethan Westbrooks, who showed he's ready to assist after strong preseason games against the Baltimore Ravens, Oakland Raiders, and the Houston Texans.
Aaron Donald is the most destructive defensive lineman since being selected 13th overall of the 2014 NFL Draft. Donald was named to four consecutive pro bowls and recording double digits in sacks two of the fours season he's played. He has played in 62 career games where he has a total of 39 sacks, 148 tackles (42 for loss), nine forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, and nine past deflections while missing only two games his entire career. The two games misses were from last season as he held out while waiting for contract extension returning just days before Week #9 against the Indianapolis Colts. Head Coach Sean McVay didn't suit up the majority of his starters Week #17 and the final regular season game against the San Francisco 49ers. Coach McVay insisted resting the starters prevented any injuries before the 2018 NFC Wild Card contest against the Atlanta Falcons, a game the Rams lost to the Falcons 26-13.
Rams second-year defensive coordinator Wade Phillips is relieved that he will finally get his defensive lineman back before the start of the new season. Phillips had remained optimistic of Donald' returned, but also insisted that it was the next man up until the holdout was ended. Donald hold-out has cost him about $405K of lost revenue while not reporting by the league August 7, 2018 deadline declaring him as a restricted free agent for 2019 and missing the Week #1 preseason game. He lost an additional $40,000 per day as he continued with his holdout, not including the other two games against the Raiders and Texans.
Rams General Manager Les Snead had announced a couple of weeks ago that the organization and Donald's representation was in the same neighborhood and was optimistic about getting the deal resolved soon. Since the firing of Jeff Fisher, Snead has been able to work magic for the Rams in getting talent and getting key players signed.
Donald’s return now allows him about two weeks to get himself back into field shape and acclimated to the pads. More than likely, he will not play in the final preseason game Thursday night against the New Orleans Saints, the same team they will play in Week #9 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Rams open up the 2018 season on the road in Oakland to play the Raiders in a nationally televised Monday Night Football Game in Week #1.