The Los Angeles Rams reported to training camp on Friday, but the absence of star defensive lineman Aaron Donald was clearly the biggest storyline for the franchise.
Donald, 26, still has two years remaining on his rookie contract with Los Angeles’ front office picking up his fifth-year option this offseason, but the two-time First-Team All-Pro is looking to be one of the highest-paid players in the league, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.
“Today’s no different than yesterday,” Rams general manager Les Snead said Friday night, via Los Angeles’ team website. “Aaron’s a priority. The goal is still the same: Make Aaron a Ram for a long, long time. So, that didn’t change at all. Definitely respect Aaron as a human, respect the process.”
The Rams 2014 first-round pick has been nothing short of sensational since entering the league, amassing 163 tackles, 28 sacks, 35 tackles for a loss, and four forced fumbles as an interior defensive lineman.
Los Angeles’ defense is converting to a 3-4 base defense under newly appointed defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, but the Rams coaching staff know Donald is a special type of player that should be able to pick up the new system quickly.
“There’s ways that he can stay up with it based on some of the technology that we have. So he understands kind of his roles and responsibilities within the framework of the defense,” Rams first-year head coach Sean McVay said. “But there’s no substitution for getting those physical reps. That’s why there’s no substitution for getting those physical reps. And that’s why this time of year is important to us.”
“But he is the type of guy where you know he’s going to stay up from a mental standpoint. And he’s one of the few guys that you feel like will be able to make a smooth transition to whatever system just because of the caliber player he is.”
Donald is set to earn $1.8 million in base salary this season and $6.892 million under the fifth-year option in 2018, according to Spotrac.
“He’s been a priority and, obviously, in these situations both sides are working,” Snead said. “And you’re working hard to try to get something done.”