Rams GM Les Snead on negotiations with Aaron Donald: 'No movement'
Aaron Donald is arguably the best defensive player in the game, but he isn’t being paid like it. So, as the Rams prepare for their first preseason game against the Cowboys on Saturday night, they’re doing so without their star defensive lineman, who has yet to report to training camp.
On Friday, Rams general manager Les Snead was asked for an update on negotiations with Donald. His update? There is no update. “Not any movement,” he said, per ESPN.
Still, Snead hasn’t given up hope. “There is hope,” he said. “There’s hope that he’ll be a Ram a long time.”
In Snead’s defense, he’s a been a bit busy engineering a trade with the Bills to bring Sammy Watkins to Los Angeles. But in Donald’s defense, he’s massively underpaid and deserves a significant pay raise. The Rams should prioritize his contract over everything else, because as previously mentioned, he’s one of the game’s best players. In the first three years of his career, he has 28 sacks — remember, he’s a defensive tackle, not an edge rusher. Our Pete Prisco ranked him as the third best player in all of football, only behind Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady. He was Pro Football Focus’ highest-graded interior defender last season.
Understandably, the Rams probably enjoy having the best defensive tackle in football on a super cheap contract. Understandably, Donald does not enjoy that nearly as much, which is why he’s not with the team for training camp. Earlier this week, our Joel Corry — a former agent — explained how he expects the holdout to proceed. As Corry noted in his story, the Rams have a history of rewarding first-round picks with contract extensions. Both receiver Tavon Austin and defensive end Robert Quinn got new deals before/during their fourth season. But the Rams still hold all the leverage.
I’ll let Corry explain:
The Rams possess leverage over Donald because he is under contract this season for approximately $1.8 million and for $6.892 million in 2018 since the Rams picked up their fifth-year option with him. Donald could also be designated a franchise player in 2019 and 2020.
Teams giving highly-accomplished first-round picks extremely early extensions haven’t exploited their leverage. Cowboys center Travis Frederick, Panthers inside linebacker Luke Kuechly, Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson and Texans defensive end J.J. Watt became the highest-paid player (by average year salary) at their respective positions. Each player received All-Pro honors in two of their first three years, just like Donald.
Based on their treatment, the Rams should at least be willing to make Donald the NFL’s highest-paid interior defensive lineman over Ndamukong Suh. Suh signed a six-year, $114.375 million contract with the Dolphins in 2015, which averages $19,062,500 and contains nearly $60 million fully guaranteed. Donald insisting upon being the NFL’s first $20 million per-year non-quarterback with more than the $70 million in guarantees Von Miller received from the Broncos in 2016 would be justified. Miller became the league’s highest paid non-quarterback at $19,083,333 per year with his extension. The Cowboys making Zack Martin, who has earned All-Pro honors in his each of three NFL seasons, the NFL’s highest-paid offensive guard before Donald gets a new deal would likely added to his resolve.
The Rams might want to extend him sooner rather than later so Donald can get fully comfortable in the new defensive system that Wade Phillips is bringing from Denver to L.A.