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Rams, Aaron Donald “not close”

Seattle Seahawks v St. Louis Rams

ST. LOUIS, MO - OCTOBER 19: Quarterback Russell Wilson #3 of the Seattle Seahawks runs with the ball against the St. Louis Rams in the fourth quarter at the Edward Jones Dome on October 19, 2014 in St. Louis, Missouri. The Rams defeated the Seahawks 28-26. (Photo by Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images)

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The Rams are optimistic that defensive tackle Aaron Donald will return this week. Maybe they shouldn’t be.

Per a league source, the Rams and Donald are negotiating but are “not close” on a deal.

While the Rams have been mum about the reasons for Donald’s absence, the reality is that Donald has decided to take a stand against the current rookie compensation system. And good for him for doing it.

During the last labor negotiations, the NFL insisted on an overhaul to the rookie compensation in order to ensure that draft busts don’t bogart millions from the available pot of player money. The problem, however, is that players who are the opposite of busts have to wait too long to get the financial reward that they no longer get when they are drafted.

Donald is scheduled to make $17 million over the first five years of his career. At that point, the Rams could apply the franchise two times, keeping him away from free agency for seven years -- and putting him on the open market when he’s on the brink of 30.

Yes, he’s under contract. But it’s not as if the contract was freely negotiated. He was stuck with the deal that his draft spot dictated, and he has devices available under the labor deal for exerting leverage in an effort to get the Rams to forget about the $1.8 million he’s due to make this year, the $6.8 million he’s due to make next year, and the two tags the Rams could apply.

It won’t be easy; typically, only those players who get to the open market get market-changing money. But if Donald is willing to dig in and skip games, he possibly will get the Rams to value him based upon his skills and abilities and not based upon the dollars and cents otherwise spelled out in the remaining years of his contract and future possible use of the franchise tag.