The biggest story coming out of Los Angeles Rams training camp isn’t what’s happening on the field. Unfortunately, it has been what’s going on off of it, and that’s the holdout of defensive end, Aaron Donald.
Whether on the side of the Rams front office or on the side of Donald, there is a lost narrative between it all. In order to gain a better understanding of the situation we decided to take a look at the situation from both sides.
Does Aaron want to hold out? Absolutely not. Does he want to be on the field with his teammates? Absolutely. Is the holdout 100% his agent? Probably not.
Here’s where Donald is coming from and it’s not because he’s selfish. Donald is doing what most everybody in his situation would do. No, Odell Beckham Jr. isn’t holding out and neither are several other rookies from that class, but that doesn’t make Donald wrong in what he’s doing.
When the new CBA was signed, the narrative was flipped. Prior to the rookie scale it was common for rookies to hold out until they were paid massive amount of money. That is no longer the case.
Now, rookies get paid a set amount until they sign their second deal. Instead of holding out coming into the league, it’s going to be a lot more likely that players start holding out for that second contract. That is the case here with Donald and with Le’Veon Bell.
In 2010, the last year under the old CBA, the 13th overall pick, Brandon Graham signed a five year deal worth $22 million with $14M guaranteed. In 2014, Donald signed a four year deal worth half of that at four years $10.136 million. The Rams picked up Donald’s fifth year option which is worth The Rams picked up Aaron Donald’s 5th year option. The option is worth $6.8921 million and is guaranteed.
To say the least, Donald has outplayed his contract. On Pro Football Focus, he has been the highest rated player in the system’s history. In three years, the defensive tackle/end has tallied a ridiculous 161 total pressures over the past two seasons and 90 defensive stops at a completely different rate to any other defensive tackle according to PFF.
Donald isn’t selfish by any means to want to get paid. He’s earned it. In a game in which a career can change in the blink of an eye, it’s only right to want to get paid especially when Donald has put in the work and put up the numbers that he has. That isn’t selfish. It’s smart.
Now, coming from the Rams perspective, they have Donald under control for four years. There really isn’t any rush to pay a guy that they’re giving $10-million over the next two years and instead pay him up in the $17-$20 million range per season.
Right now, the Rams are getting great value for the NFL’s best player. In a league that is about maximizing value, the Rams are doing the right thing.
When the Seattle Seahawks won their championship in the 2013-14 season, they had Russell Wilson, Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, and several other playing on their rookie deals.
In 2014 when these players signed bigger deals, the team had to lose guys like Max Unger, Byron Maxwell, and others because they couldn’t afford to keep them. And it’s shown. The Seahawks made the Super Bowl in 2015, but with flaws on the offensive line, it’s hard to see them getting back unless they can replace the key players that they were forced to lose.
The Rams have Donald this season for a little over $3-million, next season for around $7-million, and then the next two years they could force him to play on the franchise tag. Because Donald failed to report to camp on Wednesday, he lost an accrued season which means at some point he’d be a restricted free agent and the Rams would have the right to match any deal. After four seasons, Donald would be nearing the end of his prime at 30 years of age and the Rams would have gotten great value.
Les Snead is maximizing the value of Donald by paying the league’s top rated player $10-million over the next two seasons.
There is no doubt that the Rams have messed up when it comes to contracts like Tavon Austin and Mark Barron. The right thing to do is to pay Donald. However, the Rams are not under any pressure or backed into any corner to sign a guy that they have locked up for the next four years.
What the Rams are doing is smart and it will allow them to rebuild and spend money on other positions that right now is a priority. The team won four games last year with Donald playing 16 games. A few of those games were lost on the hands of the defense. However, it wouldnt be right not to point out that several of the games were won because of the defense.
At the end of the day however, the point is that a defensive tackle/end can only impact the game so much. The Rams are getting the league’s best for great value. It may not be the popular thing to not pay Donald, but it makes sense not to.
It’s easy to see both sides and neither side are wrong. Donald is doing what makes sense for him while the Rams are doing what makes sense for them. At some point both sides will need to compromise. When that will be however, is uncertain.
Donald will report soon. He won’t sit out the full year. To look on the bright side, at least he isn’t out taking unnecessary hits or reps that could potentially lead to injury.
This is a guy that is still hitting the gym and doing the necessary work. When he reports, he will be ready. Hopefully his return comes with a new deal, but only time will tell.