Aaron Donald Told The Rams He Was Retiring In May When Contract Talks Stalled And They Roared Back With A MASSIVE Raise

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The agent for the greatest defensive tackle to ever play sent a letter to the only team Donald's played for, the Rams, and informed them of his decision to retire, according to several sources informed of the situation.

The letter, which has been an unreported secret since it was sent, was on Athletes First letterhead and addressed to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. Simply, it stated that Donald had informed the Rams he was retiring effective on May 9. It came with instructions to send it in to the league office.

But the letter was never sent to the NFL.

[…] By that point back in May, contract talks for Donald, who was about to turn 31 and had three years left on his original six-year, $136 million extension, had stalled. His agent Todd France at Athletes First had pushed for a large raise but no new years on his deal -- something that never happens for a defensive player, with the biggest such example for an offensive player being when then-Patriots quarterback Tom Brady got an $8 million raise in 2019.

[…] A $40 million raise over three years -- without adding new years -- meant Donald would earn $95 million over three years. The $31.6M average salary reset the market for all defensive players, but looking only at the average annual salary doesn't tell the whole story of this unprecedented $40 million raise.

Made good use of what I call, for lack of a better term, the "skip ahead in the news article" dots. But holy shit, Aaron Donald almost retired! Like for real!

You're telling me we could've avoided Donald nearly pulverizing the skulls of Cincinnati Bengals players at joint training camp practices this year if the Rams were cheap-o's and simply refused to give him an unprecedented salary bump? Well fuck me sideways.

No but seriously, it's WILD that Donald was thisclose necessarily bold italicized and underlined to retiring after ripping the Bengals' hearts out in Super Bowl LVI. 

I know he's the greatest interior pass-rusher of all-time and one of the most dominant defenders the sport has ever seen, and even when Donald's physical tools begin their inevitable decline, his "losing a step" will still be better than 95% of d-linemen. However, it was apparent Donald was weighing walking away from the game in a very measured, serious way. This felt like a distant cousin to Barry Sanders minus the muck and mire of perpetual misery with the Lions.

How do the Rams do it, seriously? Yeah being in a big market helps, but good lord. Their front office seems to have a limitless bankroll. This isn't the damn Dodgers. There's a salary cap here!! Really, the Rams are exploiting certain loopholes, not caring at all about early draft picks, restructuring contracts and kicking the can down the road for years into the future.

One of the first blogs I wrote here covered this when they acquired All-Pro linebacker Bobby Wagner once the NFC West rival Seahawks cut him.

That's what's so great about these Rams. They fucking get it. Because of the lucrative new TV deals the NFL has in place that begin to kick in next year, the salary cap is going to rise a lot in the near future and teams like the reigning Super Bowl champions have gotten ahead of the curve. The 2022 NFL salary cap limit for teams is set at approximately $212.8 million. By 2027, it's projected to rise to $328.2 million.

So yeah, pay Donald a fuck ton of money now, punt on paying as much upfront on other contracts, throw in some dummy void years on those deals and off you go. As you can see with Donald, via, that's what the Rams did to cushion the blow and also give him more flexibility to retire after two more seasons, instead of fully committing to three:


The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are notable for managing this sort of stuff well. Some guy named Mike Greenberg (not the ESPN guy) is a wizard at it. The Saints' annual cap gymnastics, too, have made my head spin. They're like $49289458249 in the red every offseason and somehow get under that shit. These circumstances are also a driving force behind why Patrick Mahomes' insane 10-year contract is structured in such a way, with crazy roster bonuses, extremely low annual base salaries, and so forth.

Fascinating stuff. I hate Aaron Donald [more than] a little but damn is he good at football and good for him for securing (another) bag I guess. Despite his waffling on retirement, I'm not banking on a letdown or Donald being anything less than a Defensive Player of the Year contender until he calls it quits.

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