Aaron Donald's agent, Todd France, reportedly sent the Los Angeles Rams a letter in May informing the team of Donald's intention to retire, according to the NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.
The letter was intended to be passed along to the NFL, but the Rams never sent it. Instead, the team and France reignited contract talks and eventually settled on a $40 million raise for Donald on the three remaining years on his contract, keeping him with the team and on the field.
Per that report, the Rams and France had a scheduled meeting for the day after the letter was sent, and it was a productive one. So the two sides scheduled another meeting, and several more after that, all behind the backdrop of Donald's potential retirement.
As Rapoport wrote: "The thought of Donald's retirement was very real. For both sides, however, continuing to talk made sense. Sparked by Donald's letter, whether it was strategic or real, the parties had time and a window to get a new contract done."
The restructured deal will pay Donald an average of $31.6 million over the next three seasons and includes $65 million in guaranteed money over the next two years. If Donald chooses to return for the final year of the contract in 2024, he'll be guaranteed another $30 million.
For the Rams, it was a huge moment. The 31-year-old is an eight-time Pro Bowler, seven-time first-team All-Pro selection, a three-time Defensive Player of the Year award winner and helped lead Los Angeles to a Super Bowl title last season, coming up with the game-clinching play.
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"I just made the play again to be world champs!"<br><br>While Stafford looked away, <a href="https://twitter.com/AaronDonald97?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@AaronDonald97</a> took the Super Bowl into his own hands<br><br>America's Game: The 2021 LA <a href="https://twitter.com/RamsNFL?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@RamsNFL</a> narrated by <a href="https://twitter.com/BryanCranston?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@BryanCranston</a> | tonight at 8 pm ET on <a href="https://twitter.com/nflnetwork?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@nflnetwork</a> <a href="https://t.co/tAP0q89Gkf">pic.twitter.com/tAP0q89Gkf</a>
He hasn't shown signs of slowing down, registering 12.5 sacks, 19 tackles for loss, 25 quarterback hits and four forced fumbles in the 2021 season. It was his fifth straight season with double-digit sacks and his sixth season overall reaching that milestone, an incredible achievement for an interior lineman.
Mounting a title defense without Donald would have been a difficult task. Apparently, the Rams were one unsent letter away from facing that reality.