With 11 days before the Rams begin the regular season against Oakland, they have brought the last remaining piece to the team with the signing of Aaron Donald. The defensive tackle agreed to six years and $135 million, including $87 million guaranteed. Donald’s signing bonus is $40 million.
The contract, which runs through the 2024 season, will make Donald the highest paid defensive player in the game. Despite not being in training camp, the 27-year-old is expected to be on the field Sept. 10 when the team hosts the Raiders in both teams’ season opener. The game opened as a pick ’em, but the Rams have moved to 3.5-point favorites. The over/under is 49.5.
Donald is the Rams best player and not having him in camp was worrisome to team officials. The negotiations seemed to ebb and flow throughout August, but no deal could get hammered out for the first three weeks of August.
Talks Heat Up
In the last week, however, discussions between Donald’s agent and the team went from a simmer to a boil. Rams Coach Sean McVay said on Tuesday that he thought the organization was close to signing his star defensive player.
“Hopefully if we do get it done in the next couple days, we do feel good about him being ready for (the season opener in) Oakland,” McVay said. “The dialogue has increased, the level of urgency is extremely high on both sides.”
McVay was feeling so good about the impending signing, he took a few jabs at his boss, chief operating officer Kevin Demoff, telling reporters “Let’s go Kevin Demoff. All right, let’s go man. Just kidding.”
Key to Super Bowl Run
Donald held out last offseason and didn’t report until the day before the Rams’ first regular-season game. He sat out the first game last year and still earned Defensive Player of the Year honors. He finished the season he tallied 11.0 sacks, a career-high five forced fumbles, and led the league with 91 quarterback pressures according to Pro Football Focus.
The Rams exited the playoffs last year earlier than expected, losing to the Atlanta Falcons at home in the Wild Card Round. Los Angeles executives were busy in the offseason signing free agents they thought could get them deeper into this year’s postseason.
The first was signing free agent defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh to a one-year, $14 million contract in March. He will help bolster an already solid defense. The five-time Pro Bowl selection has 51.5 sacks and 289 tackles in his eight-year career.
The next move was trading for New England wide receiver Brandin Cooks a month later. Last season, Cooks made 65 catches for 1,082 yards and seven touchdowns. He is a serious deep threat and gives quarterback Jared Goff another weapon.
In July, the team inked their star running back Todd Gurley to a four-year contract extension with Todd Gurley worth nearly $15 million a year, making him the highest-paid running back in the NFL.
Oddsmakers have taken notice of the team’s moves and their intentions to challenge for a Super Bowl. The Rams opened in February at 12/1, but after all the personnel decisions went to 7/1 in July. They are the favorites to win the NFC at 11/2.