Since he entered the NFL in 2014, Aaron Donald leads the league in sacks, tackles for loss, and quarterback hits. And this is from a non-traditional pass rush position of defensive tackle.
Donald isn't just the best defensive player on this current crop of NFL players - he's a three-time Defensive Player of the Year - he is perhaps the best defensive player in NFL history. Now he is the much-deserved, highest-paid defensive player in the history of the NFL.
Actually, he's not just the highest-paid defensive player; his re-worked three-year deal with the Rams makes him the highest-paid non-quarterback in the history of the NFL.
Over the next three seasons, Donald is going to make $95 million, with $65 million of that contract guaranteed. He also has a "retire or play for $30 million" choice to make in 2024. He can walk away in two years or stick around and get $30 million guaranteed.
He also has a full no-trade clause in his new contract.
The Donald Effect
When Aaron Donald was a rookie the Rams were 6-10 and playing in front of empty seats in St. Louis. By the time he won the first of his three Defensive Player of the Year awards, the Rams were back in Los Angeles, Sean McVay was the head coach, and the team was in the playoffs for the first time in 13 years.
The next year Donald won his second DPOY award, and the Rams were in the Super Bowl. Now, a three-time DPOY winner and seven-time First Team All-Pro, Donald is a Super Bowl champion that has reset the market on the value of a truly great defensive player.
Currently, there are seven players with a three-year cash flow of more than $95 million, which is where Aaron Donald sits. Aaron Rodgers is number one, followed by Deshaun Watson, Dak Prescott, Matthew Stafford, Russell Wilson, and Derek Carr. Tying Donald at seventh is Bills quarterback Josh Allen.
Is Donald Worth It?
At north of $31 million per season, is the price tag worth it for a defensive player who is already 31-years-old? Perhaps a better question is could the Rams afford to not have Donald on their team in 2022.
The short and easy answer is no, they couldn't afford to go into 2022 as the defending Super Bowl champions and not have their best and most consequential player.
He's one of the game's best pass rushers, he's one of the game's best run defenders, and he's missed just two games in eight NFL seasons.
He's the best player in the league, and he's always available. And the way he improves the other players around him is immeasurable.
He is making quarterback money as a defensive tackle, but he is a defensive tackle that can influence the outcome of a game like a quarterback. He's a favorite among his teammates and the fans, and if there is any player in NFL history that deserves to be paid the most at his position, it's Donald.