The All-Pro defensive tackle has remained away from the team all offseason in hopes of getting a new contract with two years left on his rookie deal.
"I think we're optimistic," McVay said, via ESPN's Alden Gonzalez. "I think the level of urgency has certainly raised; feel good about that. Certainly those conversations right now are ongoing, but I think right now, I would say I feel optimistic about it."
Donald would likely need to report this weekend in order to be ready in time to play in the Week 1 opener versus the Indianapolis Colts, but McVay wouldn't put a timetable on his best player's return.
"I don't want to put a certain time clock on it, out of respect for Aaron and really our team as a whole," McVay said. "What I continue to reiterate is that every day is so vital and important. Obviously the closer you get, the higher the level of urgency there is. That urgency has always been high for us. But the feeling right now is definitely optimistic."
That optimism might stem from a meeting that took place between the Rams' brass and Donald's representatives in Atlanta on Wednesday, sources informed of the situation told NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport.
The 26-year-old Donald is looking for a pay raise that compensates him in line with his production as one of the most disruptive defenders in the NFL. Donald has made the Pro Bowl in each of his three seasons and been selected first-team All-Pro twice. He's an earth-mover in the middle of the defense, constantly in the quarterback's face and engulfing ball carriers. He's compiled 116 tackles and 28 sacks for his career. When Donald is on, he's nearly unblockable. Necessitating double teams on every snap, the defensive tackle opens up avenues for other defenders to make plays.
Donald is set to make $1.8 million this season and $6.9 million in 2018. Those numbers pale in comparison to what other defenders his caliber are earning -- Ndamukong Suh is slated to make nearly $10 million this season and almost $17 million in 2018; Von Miller will earn $19 million and $17 million.
The Rams are slammed against the salary cap, so it would take maneuvering to pay Donald in line with his actual value. McVay acknowledged there are hurdles to clear but reiterated several times his optimism in getting Donald back to work.
"We know that there's progress to be made, but optimistic about the direction that we're going, and the level of urgency that both sides have to try to get Aaron a part of this so that we can have him playing against the Colts," he said.