All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald is returning to the Los Angeles Rams with a big raise that will make him the highest-paid non-quarterback in the NFL.
The Rams reworked Donald’s deal to give him a $40 million raise over the last three years of his existing contract, sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter, making him the first non-quarterback to eclipse $30 million per season. The reworked deal brings the total value of Donald’s contract to $95 million over three years.
“It’s a big deal,” Rams coach Sean McVay said Monday in a SiriusXM town hall interview. “And he’s earned it. And he truly is one of one in my opinion. Means so much to me, to our organization. I think the respect that he’s garnered around this league from guys that have done it at such a high level. What he’s accomplished through his eight years is unparalleled.
“So [we] wanted to be able to find a solution to getting him taken care of, having him continue to lead the way for our team, for our defense. We had a feeling it was trending in the right direction when he was at my wedding on Saturday night.”
Aaron Donald in rare company
Aaron Donald is one of three defensive players since the 1970 merger to earn a Pro Bowl selection in each of their first eight NFL seasons, alongside Hall of Famers Lawrence Taylor and Derrick Thomas.
Lawrence Taylor (1981-90) 10
Derrick Thomas (1989-97) 9
Aaron Donald (2014-21) 8
— ESPN Stats & Information
The deal, which was negotiated by agent Todd France, includes $65 million guaranteed in the first two years of the contract and is structured in such a way that Donald can either retire or return for the 2024 season for an additional $30 million guaranteed, sources told Schefter.
The reworked contract includes a no-trade clause, a source told ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler.
Donald, 31, underwent his physical and signed the contract Monday. The Rams begin their mandatory minicamp Tuesday.
The Rams tweeted a video from Donald on Monday in which he said: “What’s up, it’s Aaron Donald, I’m locked back in. Let’s go get us another ring. Why not? At SoFi Stadium, getting chills thinking about it. Let’s go to work.”
Donald had indicated on the “I Am Athlete” podcast last week that his return for the 2022 season was contingent on getting a new deal and that he would be “at peace” with his career if an agreement couldn’t be reached.
McVay acknowledged the “business side” to Donald’s comments, but said, “This was something that you felt good about.
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“The things that you see day in and day out — the way that he works, the consistency at which he works, how he affects and influences the rest of our team and really even me as a coach and the rest of our coaching staff, everything — you’re checking all the boxes for what you want for a Ram.
“He’s a special guy. … I’m really happy for Aaron.”
McVay also credited team owner Stan Kroenke for making sure the deal with Donald got done.
“Mr. Kroenke knows how important it is to really be able to take care of your foundational guys that have done an outstanding job,” McVay said. “It’s a big deal.”
The three-time Defensive Player of the Year sealed the Rams’ victory over the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl LVI when he pressured quarterback Joe Burrow into an errant throw on fourth down late in the fourth quarter.
Donald had 12.5 sacks in the regular season and then followed that up with 3.5 more in the playoffs during the Rams’ run to the Super Bowl championship.
In eight seasons, Donald has 98 sacks. He has six seasons with at least 10 sacks — the second most by a primary interior lineman since sacks became official in 1982, trailing only John Randle, who had nine such seasons.
He has been selected to the Pro Bowl in each of his NFL seasons and has been a first-time All-Pro selection seven times. He is one of three defensive players since the 1970 merger to earn a Pro Bowl selection in each of their first eight NFL seasons, alongside Hall of Famers Lawrence Taylor (10) and Derrick Thomas (9).
ESPN Stats & Information contributed to this report.
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