The prevailing assessment had previously been that Donald might be forced to report to Rams camp by Aug. 7. Due to last season’s holdout, if the defensive tackle doesn’t report at least a month before the opening of the regular season, he wouldn’t get an accrued season towards free agency. He’d be a restricted free agent in 2019.
Despite the potential diminished leverage, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Thursday that the Aug. 7 date is not considered relevant by those involved, according to sources informed of the situation. Without that deadline to spur action, we could be in for an elongated holdout from the reigning Defensive Player of the Year.
Rapoport notes that the Aug. 7 date is irrelevant in part because the Rams could consider franchise tagging him in 2019 anyway.
From the player’s perspective, while being a restricted free agent is never ideal, in Donald’s case he’s one of the few players for which it might not matter. He’d still get a ridonkulous offer and find a team willing to fork over the high draft pick for that right to pay the NFL’s best defensive player. The Rams would also own the right to match any offer sheet for their best player.
The No. 13 overall pick in the 2014 draft is due to earn just under $7 million in the final year of his rookie deal, a figure that is at least one-third of what he deserves per season. General manager Les Snead has already conceded the Rams are in line to make Donald the league’s highest-paid defensive player. The questions at this point are: When and by how much?
The situation brewing in Oakland with Khalil Mack also not reporting for work only complicate matters for Donald and the Rams. Each DPOY award winner wants to be the top-paid defender and make QB-money. Who will get their deal done first and how long will each hold out?
All we know at this point is that the Aug. 7 “deadline” for Donald isn’t considered a deadline by those involved, which means there is no barrier to force the action to get a deal done.