The Rams have done their best to glass-half-full their way through the possibility that defensive tackle Aaron Donald will retire. The possibility remains that Aaron Donald will retire.
The question ultimately becomes whether Donald will play for $14.25 million this year and, if not, how much more it will take to change his mind.
The man who should have been the Super Bowl LVI MVP has recently mused about the possibility of not playing again. He clearly wants the Rams to think he won’t play without a new deal. The question then becomes whether the Rams will call his bluff -- or whether they’ll give him a big raise.
His current contract was fine when he signed it. It’s become outdated by changes in the market and the salary cap, not to mention Donald’s unparalleled greatness.
It’s still hard to imagine him retiring. Donald said on the I Am Athlete podcast that he always planned to play only eight years. He also said he wants to win another Super Bowl.
There’s another angle to consider here. To the extent that he has signed with Kanye West’s Donda Sports for marketing purposes, Donald will have a much easier time leveraging his on-field profile for off-field opportunities if he maintains his on-field profile. If he stops playing, it will become much more difficult to parlay his popularity as a player into other sources of revenue.
Donald skipped large chunks of training camp on multiple occasions early in his career, in order to get the contract he currently has. He’ll likely play this out until he gets an adjustment to his contract. And the Rams would be foolish not to make him happy.
If, for some reason, Donald decides not to play, it will be interesting to see the size of the bill the Rams send Donald. He earned a $5 million roster bonus on March 21. The Rams surely would want that, since it was part of his 2022 compensation. Then there’s $8 million in unearned signing bonus money. Would the Rams want that, too?
If so, that’s $13 million the Rams would be able to pursue from Donald. As Donald considers what to do, that’s a fairly important factor for Donald to consider, along with every other one that will go into the process of making a decision.