Aaron Donald got paid on Friday. The reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year and the Los Angeles Rams agreed to a massive, six-year, $135 million deal with $87 million guaranteed. He is now the highest paid defensive player in NFL history. Now the Rams have to pray he stays healthy.
While Donald absolutely deserved every penny of that contract, it’s unlikely he ever lives up to it. He’s a 27-year-old, undersized defensive tackle. At 6’1″ and 280 pounds, he’s built like a bowling ball, but also takes a pounding. He’s amazing and such a unique player, but it’s highly unlikely he avoids major injuries long term.
Donald will be making an average of $22.5 million a year in new money over the next seven seasons. It’s a major risk any time you give one player that much money, but it’s even more risky for the Rams.
When you factor in Todd Gurley’s new deal ($45 million guaranteed over six years), an extension and a future extension for Jared Goff — plus extensions for key roster pieces like Marcus Peters and the offensive line — there’s going to be a salary crunch for the Rams in a few years.
Yes, contracts get reworked all the time, and it’s unlikely he plays out all seven years of the deal. That said, $87 million guaranteed is a huge number and Donald has absolutely zero incentive to move off that price.
Obviously every player risks injury, but given the position Donald plays and his relative lack of size, you have to think his risk runs higher. There is no more violent position to play in football than interior lineman. The beating is constant and guys break down.
Donald is arguably the NFL’s best all-around player right now and makes a huge impact when he’s in games. He’s a beast. The Rams had to pay him like this. They were in an impossible position and did what needed to be done.
Now they just have to pray the highest paid defensive player in NFL history stays healthy.