IRVINE – The Rams will play their first preseason game of 2017 Saturday against the Dallas Cowboys at the Coliseum. Barring a major development between now and kickoff, their best player won’t even be in the same area code, let alone in uniform and on the field with the rest of his teammates.
The contract holdout of All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald continues to linger, hovering over the Rams like a thick morning marine layer off the Pacific Ocean.
On and on it goes, now officially two weeks in length and months in execution if you go all the way back to the Rams’ organized offseason team activities. Donald was a no-show throughout OTA’s, firmly planting his feet in the ground in protest of a contract that doesn’t reflect his stature as the NFL’s best interior defensive lineman and the internal fortitude to fight for a new deal that does.
The last time we actually saw Donald and the Rams in the same vicinity was at a mandatory minicamp June 13. But whatever positive vibes his appearance created in Thousand Oaks that day soon faded amid contract talks that yielded no resolution, an official training camp report date that passed without Donald reporting and the 13 days that have followed in which Donald has conspicuously remained AWOL.
Donald and his camp have been eerily quiet throughout, but we can safely surmise they are seeking a deal that makes him the highest-paid defensive player in the NFL and surpasses in annual salary the $19,062,500 that Ndamukong Suh makes and the $60 million in guaranteed money his six-year contract with the Dolphins pays him.
We can also safely assume the Rams have pushed a life-changing pile of money to the middle of the table for Donald to accept, an amount that will grant the 26-year-old Pittsburgh native his wish to be the highest-paid defensive player in the league.
They are wise enough to understand what they uncovered when they drafted Donald 13th overall in 2014, and that, three years into his original rookie deal he is wildly underpaid and deserves a contract worthy of his current stature.
In that respect, the two sides share mutual ground. Donald wants his just due and the Rams want to do right by him.
On the other hand, months of contract talks have yielded no resolution. For all the mutual motivation they share, they just aren’t connecting on the key elements of a mutually satisfactory contract.
The reasons for that could vary:
- The Rams aren’t willing to go as high over the Suh market as…