Los Angeles Rams superstar Aaron Donald didn't attend the start of organized team activities on Monday, which was also his 31st birthday, but head coach Sean McVay expressed optimism about the direction of contract talks.
"Dialogue has been good," McVay told reporters. "He's done a great job communicating. Gets a chance to spend time with his family right now."
Donald has three seasons left on his six-year, $135 million contract. He's scheduled to make $14.25 million in total cash for 2022, which only ranks sixth among defensive tackles, per Spotrac. It's a position where he's been the gold standard for nearly a decade.
The University of Pittsburgh product is one of the most decorated players of his generation. He's earned eight Pro Bowl appearances, seven First Team All-Pro selections, three Defensive Player of the Year Awards and won a Super Bowl title with the Rams last season.
There was speculation after the Rams' Super Bowl triumph that Donald could retire, but he appeared to shove that conversation aside during the team's championship celebrations.
"We built a super team," Donald said. "We could bring the super team back. Why not run it back? We could be world champs again."
It's not a lock he returns, though.
ESPN's Jeremy Fowler reported last week Donald has "a number he will play for." If the Rams aren't willing to meet that total in a new deal, the defensive stalwart could still retire.
Time isn't a major concern at this stage. He doesn't need OTAs, or even training camp or the preseason, to get himself ready for the team's title defense. He could show up a few days before L.A.'s Week 1 clash with the Buffalo Bills and still command double teams.
The Rams have a better idea of their financial outlook now that the draft and most of free agency is in the rearview mirror. It should give the front office a clear picture of how much they can offer Donald, likely in the form of a front-loaded deal.
All told, it would be a surprise if Donald isn't anchoring the Rams' defensive line when the 2022 season gets underway in September.