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Aaron Donald hinted he may wind up retiring if the price isn’t right for a contract extension.
Los Angeles Rams coach Sean McVay eased some concerns Wednesday, telling reporters “things are trending in the right direction” in negotiations.
McVay added that Donald’s comments, which came on the I Am Athlete podcast, were no surprise to the Rams.
“Me talking about retirement, that was happening way before we won a Super Bowl,” Donald said. “I’ve been saying that since I got into the league that I was going to play eight years and be done. That’s just what I’ve been saying. It just came out and then everybody think that, ‘Oh, he said if he wins a Super Bowl he’s going to retire.’ Nah, I got teammates, coaches, my family who know about this. I said I’m going to play eight years, and I’m going to probably be done playing football.
“But winning a Super Bowl, you get kind of a little addicted to it. I ain’t going to lie. I want to feel that again. That experience is like none other. If I was to play, it’s just to win another Super Bowl, but at the end of the day, it’s still a business and it got to make sense to me and my family.”
Donald has three years and $55 million remaining on his contract, but none of that money is guaranteed. The Rams already paid him a $5 million roster bonus because he was on the roster after March 17.
Despite signing his contract nearly four years ago, Donald remains the NFL’s highest-paid interior lineman but is not paid on the same level as elite edge-rushers. Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt earns an average annual salary of $28 million, which may be the number Donald strives to reach in negotiations.
There is no question Donald remains the sport’s most dominant interior force. He recorded a career-high 84 tackles and 12.5 sacks last season, making his seventh consecutive All-Pro team and finishing third in Defensive Player of the Year voting. The 31-year-old has finished no lower than fifth in DPOY voting in any of the last seven seasons.
If negotiations were to break down and Donald retires, he would be an unquestioned first-ballot Hall of Famer and be remembered as the premier defensive player of his generation. That said, the competitive fire in Donald clearly has him wanting to return this season and push for a Lombardi Trophy repeat.
So long as the price is right.