The holdout continues for Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald, thanks to (as recently explained by Rams COO Kevin Demoff) a fundamental disagreement between what the player wants and what the team will pay.
A key deadline for Donald is coming in two days, but that deadline isn’t likely to get him to cave.
The CBA provides that any player under contract who doesn’t report to camp by the 30th day before the start of the regular season does not acquire a year of credit toward free agency. Donald, who is entering his fifth NFL season, has only three years of credit toward free agency, because he held out into September last year. Thus, if he doesn’t show up by Tuesday, August 7 (30 days before the September 6 regular-season opener between the Falcons and Eagles), Donald will be stuck at three years of credit toward free agency, keeping him from becoming an unrestricted free agent in March.
So, coach Sean McVay, do you think Donald will show up in order to get his key fourth year of credit toward free agency?
“You know, I’m not really sure,” McVay told reporters on Saturday. “We’re scheduled to meet together with [General Manager] Les [Snead], Kevin, myself and Tony [Pastoors] tonight to discuss kind of where we are at. There really hasn’t been much progress in terms of the dialogue since camp. I know that we’re very intentional about trying to get him here, love to have him.”
They’d love to have him, but on their terms. And the August 7 deadline won’t make a difference, because Donald’s three years of credit toward free agency still make him eligible for restricted free agency. Which means that the Rams can either apply the highest level of RFA tender, which would give them a right to match an offer sheet from another team and a first-round pick as compensation if they don’t, or use the franchise tag. Given that plenty of other teams (especially those picking late in round one) would gladly give up a first-round draft pick to get Donald, the Rams will be using the franchise tag, regardless of whether Donald is restricted or unrestricted.
The far more relevant deadline comes on Thursday, August 9, when Donald skips L.A.’s game at Baltimore — and potentially loses more than $400,000 under an obscure CBA provision that sets the fine for players in their fifth-year options at one regular-season game check for each preseason game missed. Last year, the Rams waived the daily training-camp fines that Donald racked up during an extended holdout. This year, the stakes will be higher, thanks to more than $3.2 million in potential fines if Donald once again shows up on the eve of Week One.
Either way, Donald and the Rams remain dug in, and the real question is whether, unlike last year, his holdout will linger into the regular season, which starts with a Monday night game against the Raiders.