Three-Time NFL Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald Could Retire if Rams Don’t Negotiate New Contract

by Bryan Fyalkowski

Fresh off his first career Super Bowl win with the Los Angeles Rams, three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald has spent much of this offseason thinking about his future.

The 31-year-old, seven-time All-Pro signed a six-year, $135 million extension back in 2018 and has made remarks about how he wants to renegotiate the deal after four seasons. At the time he was the highest-paid defensive player in the NFL, but now he is not.

Pittsburgh’s T.J. Watt signed a four-year, $112 million extension prior to the 2021 campaign, then backed it up with an NFL Defensive Player of the Year performance. The Steelers’ edge rusher is set to average $28 million per year in his deal, compared to Donald’s $22.5 million annual pay.

Eye-Opening Quotes on the Podcast

As a recent guest on the I Am Athlete podcast – hosted by former NFL wide receiver Brandon Marshall – Donald was quite candid.

“It ain’t about the money, but it’s a business at the end of the day,” Donald said. “For me, it’s about winning. I don’t want to play football if I can’t win anyway, so I feel like if I got a real opportunity to win another Super Bowl, then it makes sense to play. But again, it’s still a business. We’ve got to handle the business side of things, and if that wasn’t to get handled. … I’ll be fine regardless.”

With a Super Bowl ring now on his finger, the Pittsburgh native has cemented himself as one of the best defensive players of all time. Not to mention it was Donald’s pass rush late in the fourth quarter that hurried Cincinnati Bengals’ quarterback Joe Burrow into an incompletion on fourth down and clinched the 23-20 win for Los Angeles.

The morning of Super Bowl Sunday, there were rumors spread about Donald’s potential retirement if the Rams were to take home the Lombardi Trophy. But, if anyone was paying attention – Donald says – it would not have been such a surprise.

“But me talking about retirement, that was happening way before we won a Super Bowl. I’ve been saying that since I got into the league that I was going to play eight years and be done. … I got teammates, coaches and my family who know about this. I said I’m going to play eight years, and I’m going to probably be done playing football.”

Donald Doesn’t Seem to Want to Retire

Although Donald just completed his eighth season in the NFL, the fact that he is toying with the idea of retirement – rather than actually doing it – is a positive sign for Rams fans. Another quote in the podcast also hinted that he wants to return and defend the Super Bowl title.

“Winning a Super Bowl, you get kind of a little addicted to it,” Donald said. “I ain’t going to lie. I want to feel that again. That experience is like none other. If I was to play, it’s just to win another Super Bowl.

“Once you’re actually in that moment, it’s different. … There’s no other feeling like it. When I talk about me saying I’d be done in eight years, but then you experience something like that. It’s like, I want to do whatever I can to experience that again. Now I see why Tom Brady can play this game for so long, because this guy won seven of these.”

Still, Donald came back to his strong public relations stance: “But at the end of the day, it’s still a business and it got to make sense to me and my family.”