The Rams should not expect to see Aaron Donald on the field anytime soon, unless they are willing to pony up some cash. According to a report from ESPN.com's Adam Schefter, there is a belief around the league that Donald will not play another down on his current contract and is willing to hold out until the Rams give him an extension.
There is a belief from some around the league that, no matter the fines or the effect on his free agency, Aaron Donald will not play another down on his existing contract. In other words, his holdout is likely to last until a new deal comes along.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) July 26, 2018
Donald is heading into the fifth-year option portion of his rookie contract, set to make $6,892,000 in 2018 after pulling in $10,136,500 during the first four years of his rookie-scale deal. He held out for a contract extension last summer but did not get one, and he ultimately missed the first two games of the year before returning and looking like his typical dominant self.
Since entering the league as the No. 13 overall pick out of Pittsburgh in 2013, Donald has made the Pro Bowl in every season of his career. He has also been named a first team All-Pro in each of the last three seasons. He's recorded 204 tackles and 39 sacks across his four seasons, with the latter figure ranking first in the league among defensive tackles, and ninth in the league overall. Even those figures do not do his impact justice, however. He's forced nine fumbles and recovered two more, deflected nine passes, and finished in the top six in total pressures (sacks plus hits plus hurries) in each of the last three seasons, including first a year ago.
With the uncertainty surrounding J.J. Watt's health, Donald is the clear best defensive player in football at this moment. He may in fact be the best player in football, period. And yet the Rams seem unwilling to engage him on talks for a new deal to his liking, even while they hand big-money contracts to players like Ndamukong Suh (who will make more than twice as much as Donald during the 2018 season), Brandin Cooks, and Todd Gurley.
Donald's frustration with his lack of long-term security is completely understandable, especially given his obvious on-field impact. The Rams have maintained since last year that they want to keep Donald for the long haul, but there has been almost no (publicly-confirmed) movement toward making that happen. Now, Donald is prepared to stay away from camp and even sit out through the regular season until he gets a new deal. This holdout is not going to end quickly.