The biggest offseason storyline for the defending Super Bowl champion Rams was put to rest on Monday with Aaron Donald ensuring his return.
Rams coach Sean McVay was rightfully ecstatic upon learning the Rams officially retained their best player as they look to repeat in 2022.
"It's not great news, it's phenomenal, outstanding, any nice adjective that you can place around it," McVay said on SiriusXM NFL Radio’s Town Hall, which airs Tuesday. "But it is, it's a big deal and he's earned it. He truly is one of one in my opinion. Means so much to me, to our organization. I think the respect that he's garnered around this league from guys that have done it at such a high level, what he's accomplished through his eight years is unparalleled. And so [we] wanted to be able to find a solution to, you know, getting him taken care of. Having him continue to lead the way for our team, for our defense. And, you know, we had a feeling it was trending in the right direction when he was at my wedding on Saturday night. So, a lot of good things have happened the last couple days for me."
A big deal it is indeed for Donald, who will temporarily cast aside his retirement thoughts after signing a re-worked contract that nets him a $40 million raise for the next three years. The deal guarantees Donald $65 million over the next two seasons and $95 million through the 2024 season, making him the highest-paid non-quarterback in NFL history.
Donald's retirement has been a looming storyline ever since the Rams toppled the Bengals in Super Bowl LVI. Though it would've been a fitting end with Donald closing out the game with a pass rush that forced a turnover on downs, the Rams gave the 31-year-old plenty of incentive to extend his playing career.
In just eight seasons, Donald has put together a career worthy of the Hall of Fame. A seven-time All-Pro, eight-time Pro Bowler, three-time Defensive Player of the Year and member of the Hall of Fame's All-2010s Team, Donald has the most sacks (98.0), QB hits (226) and tackles for loss (150) in the NFL since his inception into the league in 2014.
Donald's leadership on and off the field is one thing that doesn't show up on the stat sheet, and its effect isn't limited to just his Rams teammates, according to McVay. Returning Donald will be essential for the team as a whole as they aim to run it back as champions, and the massive deal continues the win now attitude the Rams organization has embraced in recent years.
"Just look at what he's earned, what his play has merited based on that production and then all the things that you don't see," McVay said. "The things that you see day in and day out, the way that he works, the consistency at which he works, how he effects and influences the rest of our team and really even me as a coach and the rest of our coaching staff. Everything. You're checking all the boxes for what you want for [in] a Ram. He's a special guy."