Amid rumblings shortly after the Super Bowl that Sean McVay might not return as head coach of the Los Angeles Rams, Aaron Donald was also teasing retirement.
Speaking to NFL Network's Andrew Siciliano and Maurice Jones-Drew on Saturday, Donald admitted he "probably" would have walked away if McVay had left the team:
"We came up with some things early and I first told him as long as he's the head coach here, I want to continue to build my legacy with him. As long as he's here and I got the ability to still play at a high level, I'm going to be here. When he's gone and it's all said and done, that probably will be when I'm hanging it up, too."
In the wake of the Rams' 23-20 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl LVI, McVay was noncommittal about coaching in 2022.
"We'll see," McVay told Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times. "I'm just enjoying this moment right now. I'm really happy to be a part of this. Happy for that."
During an appearance on the I Am Athlete podcast in March (h/t CBS Sports' Patrik Walker), Donald said he was talking about retiring "way before we won a Super Bowl" and would be at peace with that decision if it happened.
Donald also noted he was looking to be paid in line with his level of performance.
"But again, it's still a business," he said. "We've got to handle the business side of things, and if that wasn't to get handled then, you know, it is what it is type of situation. I'll be fine regardless."
The Rams rewarded their superstar defensive tackle by restructuring his contract to make him the highest-paid non-quarterback in NFL history. He received a guaranteed $95 million through the 2024 season.
There's a strong argument that Donald has been the best player in the NFL, regardless of position, since he was drafted by the Rams in 2014. He has been named to the All-Pro first team in each of the past seven seasons and has finished in the top five in Defensive Player of the Year voting every year since 2015, winning three times.
Donald has only missed two games in his career. The 31-year-old has averaged 28.3 quarterback hits, 18.8 tackles for loss and 12.3 sacks per season over the past eight years.
As the Rams prepare to defend their Super Bowl championship, having Donald back in the middle of their defensive line will make their task a lot easier.