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Revised contract opens door for Aaron Donald making his way closer to home in 2024

Aaron Donald finally gets a well-deserved pay day with a three-year, $95 million deal that gives the Super Bowl-winning DT the option to leave Los Angeles as a free agent in 2025.

The new contract signed Monday by Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald essentially guarantees that he’ll spend the next two seasons with the Rams. After that, things could get interesting.

The structure allows Donald to play for L.A. through 2023, at a total payout of $65 million. At that point, he can retire with no financial consequences of any kind. And if he retires following the 2023 season, the next move could be to try to unretire with a new team.

At that point, Donald could try to leverage a trade to a location closer to his hometown of Pittsburgh. If the Rams will get no further services from him either way, they could secure some amount of value in exchange for swapping the final season of his deal to another franchise.

For Donald, an annual commitment that entails spending so much time so far from home was one of the reasons he considered retiring after the 2021 season. After 2023, his mindset could be very simple. Happily retire from football altogether or keep playing in a city far closer to the city where he’d prefer to spend as much time as possible.

It could be Pittsburgh. It could be Cleveland. It could be Cincinnati. It could be Baltimore. Really, any of the AFC North teams would put him far closer to home, if he decides to keep playing after 2023. The Rams would have to decide whether to take what they can get for the final year of Donald’s deal and let him finish his career elsewhere, or the Rams can watch him retire without ever playing for another team. And get nothing in return.

If he’s determined to end his career closer to home, at that point Donald simply needs to play one more year for the Rams (at $30 million) and then, given the unique structure of his new deal, become a free agent after the 2024 season.

It’s two years away, but those two years will fly by -- as two years usually do. That will be one of the top stories of the 2024 offseason. Will Donald retire from the Rams and then hope to be traded to another team? Or will he spend one more year in L.A. before dictating his football future?

His age and health will be a factor. He’s 31. Will the wear and tear of constantly double- and triple-teaming begin to slow him down, this year or next? Will he still be dominant, and will he be willing to continue his career if he isn’t as great as he’s always been?

Regardless, today’s outcome hardly binds him to the Rams for the long haul. The clock is ticking. Two years minimum, three years maximum. And, possibly, two years in L.A. followed by one or two or more in a city on the other side of the country.

However it plays out, he’ll make $32.5 million per year, on average, for the next two seasons of football. After the 2023 season ends, the next chapter of his career could very well begin.