Defensive players who can impact the game like Aaron Donald are exceedingly rare. That’s why the Rams have to lock up down with a new contract.
With all due respect to Ndamukong Suh, there’s no question who the best defensive lineman on the Rams roster is. In fact, Aaron Donald is the team’s best player. It’s time for the front office to step up and get a deal done to keep him in Los Angeles for the foreseeable future.
Rams VP Kevin Demoff continues to characterize talks with Donald and his representatives as “positive” but no deal is imminent. That might placate some fans, but it really shouldn’t. The Rams have been engaged in dialogue with Donald and his dialogue for well over a full calendar year.
The problem for Donald is that the Rams front office knows they can simply apply the franchise tag on him for multiple seasons. Donald’s on-field impact is greater than the defensive tackle position he plays, but the NFL doesn’t agree. His franchise tag price will only correspond to what other defensive tackles earn. That allows the Rams to sign him for two more seasons on a serious bargain.
That doesn’t mean it’s what they should do. Fairly compensating you players is an important thing for an organization. It has a significant impact on morale in the locker room. It also could significantly influence the Rams’ ability to lure free agents to Los Angeles in the future. If word gets around that they try to lowball their stars, big name free agents may look elsewhere.
There’s also the minor matter of keeping Donald happy and motivated. It stands to reason that he will play his best football when he feels like he’s fairly compensated. the longer the Rams let him twist in the wind, the more likely he is to develop ill-feelings towards the team. That could negatively impact his performance on the field and his willingness to spend his entire career with the franchise.
In the end, the Rams need to suck it up and give Donald the big money deal he deserves. It might cost them some roster flexibility moving forward, but losing him could set the franchise back for years to come. Signing Donald to a new deal should be the team’s number one priority until they get it done.