Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay addressed the team's contract talks with superstar defensive tackle Aaron Donald, who hasn't attended any of the team's voluntary workouts thus far this offseason and held out through all of last year's training camp.
"I don't think I'd ever use the word crisis... We're proactive to finding a solution," McVay told reporters, per Gary Klein of the Los Angeles Times.
"We feel good about the dialogue that has existed. We totally understand some of the other things that are going on with regards to wanting to get that deal, and with respect to Aaron, we feel really good about that dialogue. And this is a voluntary offseason program with where we're at. You know he's a guy who's going to work hard on his off-time, and that's kind of where we're at. So we feel good with everything that's going on with that."
Donald, 26, is set to make $6.8 million in the final year of his rookie contract, per Spotrac, a dramatic bargain for the Rams considering Donald's status as arguably the best defensive player in football. In his four NFL seasons, Donald has registered 39 sacks and nine forced fumbles, and in 2017, he posted 41 tackles, 11 sacks, five forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.
"Donald generated 91 total pressures, which led the entire league, and he did that while rushing from an interior alignment (where pressure is harder to generate) and missing two games over the season. Needless to say, Donald had the league's best pass-rushing productivity score of 14.8, and in the playoffs he had one of the most spectacular halves of football you will ever see, generating 10 total pressures before the [Atlanta] Falcons completely changed their game plan at the half to try and take his influence out of the game. Donald's dominance changes games, and he rightfully takes his place atop the PFF Top 101 for the second time in his career."
For that reason, there's little doubt that the Rams want to ink Donald to a long-term extension, though Donald can make a strong argument he should be the highest-paid defensive player in the NFL and perhaps the league's highest-paid player, period.
If he hits the open market, it's very likely a team would offer him a deal in that stratosphere. Certainly, it's a strong possibility that Donald will skip another training camp if a long-term deal with the Rams isn't reached. And it was hardly surprising Donald chose to skip voluntary workouts.
This year, however, McVay believes there is greater communication between himself and his superstar lineman.
"I think the best thing we have going is now there's been a year of working together. There's a rapport, there's a relationship that's been established and we're in constant dialogue and communication," he said. "When this happened last year, we weren't involved really much in communication between myself and Aaron. And I think you feel good about it just knowing where he's at."
At the very least, McVay isn't worried about Donald coming into training camp out of shape.
"You know he's going to be a guy who's so conscientious. He's working hard, he's doing all those things back at home in Pittsburgh ... so it leaves me with a much better understanding of where we're at. We're proactively continuing to work toward solutions—we got meetings and things like that set up—and we're hopeful that [a new contract] will eventually come."