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Rams DT Donald not at voluntary workouts

From ESPN - April 16, 2018

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- So much is different about the Los Angeles Rams these days. They are coming off their first playoff appearance in 13 years, with a star-studded roster that now rivals any in the NFL, and the expectations are greater than they have been in more than a decade. The city is buzzing, the players are excited.

But one key similarity remains: Aaron Donald is absent.

Donald did not attend the start of the Rams' offseason program on Monday. The reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year was absent for most of last year's program and is still in search of a new contract, one that would make him one of the game's highest-paid players. Donald is headed into the final year of his rookie contract, with no interest in showing up without a more lucrative deal.

After his team's first workout, Rams coach Sean McVay said they are "proactive towards finding a solution to make sure that everybody feels good about that."

"What I think we feel good about is the dialogue that has existed," McVay added. "We totally understand some of the other things that are going on with regards to wanting to get that deal. With respect to Aaron, we feel really good about where we are at with that dialogue. This is a voluntary offseason program. You know he's a guy that's going to work hard on his off time, and that's kind of where we are at. We feel good about everything that's going on with that."

Donald, who remains in Pittsburgh, is set to make $6.89 million in what constitutes the fifth-year option of his rookie contract. The Rams can then keep him for up to three additional years with the franchise tag, but they have expressed a desire to sign Donald long term dating back to last year's scouting combine.

At this year's combine, Rams general manager Les Snead said he and Donald's CAA-based representatives "came up with a nice timeline" for negotiations, a process that might pick up after the draft. The Rams have since taken up almost all of their cap space by adding cornerback Aqib Talib, interior lineman Ndamukong Suh and wide receiver Brandin Cooks. But Snead recently said that "none of it affects Aaron."

Signing Donald to a long-term deal might actually give the Rams more space under this year's salary cap, because the signing bonus is prorated for the life of the contract and would allow them to lower his 2018 base salary.

The Rams and Donald might be at a better place now, which could be evidenced by their exclusive, behind-the-scenes access to Donald's hometown for their "Behind The Grind" documentary series. Donald likes playing for McVay and is excited about the direction of the team. The Rams, meanwhile, would be more willing to pay Donald now because he's closer to free agency.

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