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Aaron Donald submitted retirement letter to Rams during offseason

By late in the offseason, May 9 to be exact, Aaron Donald seemed to have composed his mind. The rumors that floated round the time of Super Bowl LVI have been swirling, however now he seemed certain.

So the agent for the best defensive tackle to ever play sent a letter to the only real team Donald’s played for, the Rams, and informed them of his decision to retire, in accordance with several sources informed of the problem.

The letter, which includes been an unreported secret because it was sent, was on Athletes First letterhead and addressed to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. Simply, it stated that Donald had informed the Rams he was retiring effective on, may 9. It was included with instructions to send it into the league office.

However the letter was never delivered to the NFL.

What transpired next paved just how for a massive contract adjustment for Donald to invest in the Super Bowl champs for another 2 yrs. He’ll be on the field tonight contrary to the Bills in the 2022 NFL regular-season opener (8: 20 p.m. ET on NBC).

By that time back May, contract talks for Donald, who was simply going to turn 31 and had 3 years left on his original six-year, $136 million extension, had stalled. His agent Todd France at Athletes First had pushed for a big raise but no new years on his deal — a thing that never happens for a defensive player, with the largest such example for an offensive player being when then-Patriots quarterback Tom Brady got an $8 million raise in 2019.

What Donald and his camp sought was far larger than $8 million.

The contract negotiations looked grim in line with the views of everybody involved, and Donald appeared done playing in the NFL. He previously accomplished everything you can accomplish, with eight Pro Bowls, seven All-Pro selections, three Defensive Player of the entire year awards and today a brilliant Bowl title.

So, the letter was delivered to the Rams, and Donald was at peace along with his decision. The only real caveat was this: The Rams brass, Donald and his agent had a zoom setup the very next day to go over his contract. The letter stayed unearthed until that meeting merely to be certain there wasn’t anything they might do. Meanwhile, the Rams were endlessly respectful of Donald, no matter his decision, simply curious about when and how exactly to properly honor him for his stellar career.

Instead, there is a slightly encouraging conversation between Donald’s agent and the Rams and a different one was scheduled. And another. And another. And suddenly both sides were a lot more encouraged an impossible deal could easily get done.

Also, an integral date in June 1 loomed. Had Donald’s retirement letter been submitted to the league in those days, it could have triggered a $21.5 million salary-cap hit in 2022 for the Rams. After June 1, the $21.5 million became only $9 million. So, the timing was important.

The very thought of Donald’s retirement was very real. For both sides, however, continuing to talk made sense. Sparked by Donald’s letter, whether it had been strategic or real, the parties had time and a window to obtain a new contract done.

Was Donald serious enough to retire? Would the Rams have sent the letter in? Was it a negotiating move targeted at handing a new player with 3 years left some leverage?

Nobody will know. But Donald’s situation was treated with necessary seriousness from all sides, and in the long run a deal was struck on June 6.

A $40 million raise over 3 years — without adding new years — meant Donald would earn $95 million over 3 years. The $31.6M average salary reset the marketplace for several defensive players, but looking only at the common annual salary doesn’t tell the complete story of the unprecedented $40 million raise.

Essentially, a two-year commitment to the champs, having an possibility to play a third if it made sense. Therefore, Donald won’t retire.

Instead, he’ll play tonight.

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