Tis the season where NFL players put their money where their mouth is, literally. As training camp has opened for all NFL teams, players who have been in contract negotiations either show up to camp with their teammates or begin to suffer mandatory fines from not participating. This is no different for Oakland Raiders star defensive end Khalil Mack and Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald.
Mack is pushing for a long-term deal now, instead of waiting for his rookie contract to be played out. Aaron Donald is in the same situation. Both of these players are 2014 draft picks who are playing in the final year of their first NFL contracts. These two guys are probably expecting about the same average annual value on a contract, but also may be waiting for the other guy to make the first move in order to set a comparable market. However, Oakland general manager Reggie McKenzie has stated that he will not use other players’ contracts as a comparison when negotiating an extension with Mack, for whatever that is worth. Mr. McKenzie better be aware that one of the top defensive players in the league is going to want to be paid like a top defensive player in the league.
There is also some interesting information coming from Oakland today. ESPN.com is reporting that Khalil Mack and new head coach Jon Gruden have not spoken since Gruden was hired on to lead the Raiders in January. As Mack is the face of the franchise, this news has to be alarming to Raiders fans as meaningful games begin in just over a month.
Aaron Donald has made it known that he will “not play another down” on his current contract. This means that Donald will absorb the fines and continue to sit out until a new, long-term extension is reached. Donald is set to make just under $7M this season, which is ridiculously underpaid for the top defensive tackle in the league. Furthermore, Donald has sat back this offseason and watched teammates Todd Gurley, Brandin Cooks, and Ndamukong Suh all receive lucrative contracts. If you want to look into Donald’s sincerity in terms of a holdout, remember that he was willing to miss Week 1 of last season for similar issues. Remember that Donald did not report to the Rams until the day prior to their season opener.
Reports have stated that Donald is seeking to become the highest paid defensive player in the league. That alone means he is seeking more than $19M a year that Denver Broncos linebacker Von Miller is currently getting paid. Any prolonged holdout by Donald will change his free agency status in the offseason from unrestricted to restricted. That too could factor into the pressure between the parties to get a deal done.
Donald has secured 39 career sacks in 62 games after coming to the Rams out of the University of Pittsburgh. Last season alone, he recorded 11 sacks in 14 games and led the league in quarterback pressures.