One of the bigger surprises to come out of Super Bowl LVI was NBC's Rodney Harrison revealing on the pregame broadcast that Rams superstar Aaron Donald could retire. Following L.A.'s win over the Bengals, Donald deflected those questions about his future but there has since been momentum that he'll "run it back" for the 2022 season with head coach Sean McVay even telling reporters back in March that he'll be back this year. While there may be confidence that Donald will be on the field to help the Rams defend their title, it doesn't sound like a sure thing just yet.
Donald is currently seeking a new contract that is anticipated to reset the market on the defensive side of the ball. The two sides have been working on this record-breaking deal, but nothing has been executed yet. And that's where things get interesting. As ESPN reports, Donald has a number that he'll play for. If it is not met, retirement is still on the table.
Donald currently has three years remaining on the six-year, $135 million contract he signed with Los Angeles back in 2018. At the time, that made him the highest-paid defensive player in NFL history, but that record has since been exceeded. Now, the top defensive players are making around $28 million per season, which is above the $22.5 million in AAV that Donald is currently making.
His next contract, per ESPN, is expected to be well above that $28 million in AAV and is also expected to be an extension as the Rams repackage the remaining years on his existing contract with a massive raise.
Donald will be 31-years-old at the start of the 2022 season and adding any additional years to his current contract will bring him into his mid-30s. Given that retirement talk has already been buzzing around, it'll be curious to see if he plays throughout the life of whatever gargantuan deal he'll eventually put pen to paper on, but tacking on years is an easier way for the Rams to spread out his money to make it more palatable.
Last year's Super Bowl victory was the cherry on top of what has already been a dominating, Hall of Fame-worthy career for Donald. He's a three-time Defensive Player of the Year, a seven-time first-team All-Pro, and has been named to the Pro Bowl in every season of his eight-year career. That's enough to get him into Canton, so if the Rams are unable to pony up with the contract he desires, Donald can rest easy knowing that he'll be putting a yellow jacket on one day. That said, L.A. will certainly want to keep him on the field for as long as possible, so they'll likely be moving heaven and earth to try and hammer out this new deal.