The long-term issue isn’t resolved, but the Rams’ short-term nightmare is over. Star defensive lineman Aaron Donald is back.
Donald ended his six-week holdout Saturday morning, albeit without the new contract he desired, and reported to the team. Donald will not play in Sunday’s season opener against Indianapolis at the Coliseum but presumably will be available next week against Washington.
Donald remains under contract through the 2018 season, but is seeking a new deal, one that could make him the NFL’s highest-paid defensive player. The Rams engaged Donald’s agent in talks during the summer, but when the team reported to training camp in late July, Donald stayed home and gave no indication when he would show up.
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Donald passed a physical Saturday and the Rams immediately added him to their active roster. The Rams also got an exemption from the NFL that allowed them to carry 54 players this weekend, one more than the league maximum.
Why end the holdout now, without a new contract? If Donald didn’t report this weekend, he would not have been paid his first-week salary of more than $100,000, plus an unspecified amount of bonus money.
Because of the roster exemption, the Rams had the option to withhold Donald’s salary for this week, but the team has chosen to pay Donald. The Rams also have decided not to collect approximately $1.4 million in fines that Donald accumulated when he skipped training camp.
Rams officials declined to comment Saturday, but clearly they don’t see their work as done, and negotiations with Donald and his agent will continue.
Donald, 26, is set to make $1.8 million in base salary this season, as part of the rookie contract he signed after the Rams drafted him with the No. 13 overall pick in 2014. During the offseason, the Rams also picked up the fifth-year option on Donald’s contract, so he is set to make almost $6.9 million in 2018.
Donald, a Pro Bowl selection in each of his first three NFL seasons, is believed to be seeking a contract that would make him the league’s highest-paid defensive player. Denver’s Von Miller and Miami’s Ndamukong Suh both make in excess of $19 million per season.