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Half Mag / Half Zine

The Rams gave defensive tackle Aaron Donald a massive new contract on June 6. Exactly four weeks earlier, Donald exercised the ultimate piece of leverage to get the deal he deserved.

Via Ian Rapoport of NFL Media, Donald’s agents gave the Rams on May 9 letter to Commissioner Roger Goodell expressing Donald’s intention to retire, with an instruction to forward the letter to the league office.

Even if he was serious about retiring without a new contract, the letter amounted to an obvious exercise in theatrics. If he had retired before June 1, the Rams would have absorbed a $21.5 million cap charge. After June 1, a retirement would have reduced the cap charge to $9 million. So he tells them on May 9 he’s going to retire, in the form of a letter to the Commissioner.

It was a pointless ploy. It’s been well established that there are no “retirement papers” to file. The Buccaneers, for example, did not move quarterback Tom Brady to the reserve-retired list after he publicly retired in February; doing so would have resulted in a $32 million cap charge. At the time, the league office told PFT that the Buccaneers could have kept him on the active roster for as long as they wanted.

Even if Donald would have sent the letter to the league or conducted a retirement press conference or declared his intention on every billboard in America, the Rams could have done the same thing with Donald, holding him on the roster through June 1 — and beyond.

The bigger question is whether Donald would have retired without a new contract. He should have; he was woefully underpaid. He didn’t have to. On June 6, the Rams gave him a massive new deal that lets him retire without financial consequence after two seasons.

Bottom line? While it’s news that the letter was sent, it was an obvious negotiating tactic. Along with whatever else Donald and his agents did to get the new deal that properly reflects his value to the team, he managed to get an improved contract without having to make good on any threat/promise to retire.