From the outset, the Aaron Donald contract holdout seemed a bit dubious. The longer it dragged on through OTAs, training camp and preseason games, the more equivocal it became.
That he finally returned early Saturday morning, just ahead of the Rams season opener Sunday against the Colts — with no new deal in hand — only adds to the puzzlement.
As in, what was all that for?
We know why he’s back, of course. Had he not reported in time for the season opener he stood to lose the $100,000 in salary his weekly game check represented. Donald won’t play Sunday, but he’ll collect his money. It would have been ludicrous for him to play it any other way. A hundred grand is a hundred grand, no matter how entrenched Donald is in his negotiating position or how hurt his pride might be by the Rams not checking off all his contract demand boxes.
The bigger question is, what, exactly is his optimum end game and did he really think holding out all this time was going to deliver his ideal outcome?
Because, I have to tell you, no one in the NFL believed for one second a guy with two years left on his original contract and who’s under team control the next four years was going to get all his wishes granted.
That kind of leverage is reserved for players who play out their contracts, earn free agency and peddle their talent across the entire 32-team league.
And let’s be frank here. By wishes we mean whatever overall salary number he believes he’s worth over the current highest-paid defensive player, what percentage of that number is guaranteed up front and what percentage of that overall number is guaranteed within the first three years or so of the deal.
Donald has his number.
The Rams have their number. And by all indications, it’s a number big enough to insure Donald is the highest-paid defensive player in the NFL
Those numbers, obviously, don’t jive. Obviously, right. That was the reason for the long holdout.
Thing is, you wonder why it took so long for Donald and his agent to figure out the Rams weren’t about to budge from that number when everyone understood they had all the leverage.
The Rams were always open and willing to re-do his rookie contract to reflect his status as one of the best defensive players in the NFL, if not the best. When other teams would have hung up when his agent called expressing a desire to renegotiate the original five-year rookie deal Donald is playing under — the one that still has two years remaining on it — …