Aaron Donald was ready to walk away.
The superstar Rams defensive lineman’s agent Todd France of Athletes First agency sent a letter stating Donald’s intention to retire to the team late in the offseason, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapaport. The letter, however, was reportedly addressed to commissioner Roger Goodell, and the Rams were instructed to send it to the league office.
The letter stated that Donald was retiring “effective on May 9,” per the report.
Before sending the letter to the league office, however, Rams brass had a scheduled meeting with Donald and France the day after receiving the letter. Previously, the 31-year-old Donald and the team had reached an impasse on a potential contract adjustment.
In the days leading up to and following the Rams’ Super Bowl victory, reports emerged that Donald was seriously contemplating retirement, despite having three years left of a six-year, $136 million extension. At the end of May, Donald said on the “I Am Athlete” podcast that he was “at peace” with retirement if he and the Rams couldn’t come to terms.
At the time, Donald and his agent were seeking an extremely rare pay raise without additional years added to the contract, per NFL Network’s report. Further, Donald was reportedly seeking much more than the $8 million raise Tom Brady got in 2019, who is perhaps the most famous recipient of such an adjustment.
During the meeting, optimism reportedly grew over reaching a common ground, however, and it led to several other meetings being scheduled after that. The two sides were also pushed by a critical June 1 date. If the Rams had sent the retirement letter to the league office before that date, it would have reportedly triggered a $21.5 million salary-cap hit this season, while that number decreased to $9 million if the letter arrived after June 1.
Eventually, Donald and the Rams agreed on a new deal that will pay him $95 million over the next three years, a whopping $40 million raise from what he was set to earn.
Bluff or not, Donald had it in writing that he was ready to retire. Instead, he takes the field for the Rams’ season-opener against the Bills Thursday night.