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L.A. Rams GM: Aaron Donald extension 'budgeted'

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Straining their salary-cap space to the very last dollar, the Los Angeles Rams have acquired big contract after big contract, all the while apparently avoiding the All-Pro elephant in the room, Aaron Donald.

But according to Rams general manager Les Snead, Los Angeles hasn't forgotten about the perennial Pro Bowl defensive tackle. In fact, the Rams have made each of their moves -- trading for Marcus Peters, Aqib Talib and Brandin Cooks and signing Ndamukong Suh -- with Donald's impending mega-extension in mind.

"We've got good dialogue with their agents. I'll keep all of that in-house, but none of it affects Aaron Donald," Snead responded during Cooks' introductory news conference Thursday when asked about Donald's contract situation. "He's one of 53 and as I've said plenty of times before, we've got that budgeted into the budget. We didn't do all this and forget about him for sure."

Cap-strapped for the 2018 season -- and currently over the cap by $3 million, according to OverTheCap.com  -- the Rams will enter 2019 with the second-most cap space in the league, just behind the New York Jets. Los Angeles will have more than enough room to pay Donald and some of their new acquisitions with expiring contracts (Peters, Suh); in fact, Snead and Co. are already working on a contract extension for Cooks.

But the Rams can't afford to let Donald test the open market, meaning an extension has to happen in 2018, preferably before the season begins and leverage becomes fluid week-to-week.

As for L.A.'s blockbuster spending on players not named Donald, Snead tempered hype that the Rams are "all in" this season.

"Simply put, 2018 is important, we definitely want to repeat as NFC [West] champions," Snead explained. "A lot of the players we've acquired are young and have evolved to be in the prime of their careers and we'd love to take advantage of that, not just '18 but '19, '20, '21 and moving forward.

The GM continued: "2018's important, '19's very important and Sean [McVay] and I have been saying the whole time, that guess what, it's '18 but we're still 11 wins behind the '17 season. Just because we've had a flashy 2018 offseason doesn't mean that we're any better this year than we were last year because we're 11 games behind last year's team. But it's up to us to start here in the next couple weeks, like we did last year and make sure we win 12 or more."

Building to win now and constructing a roster for the future are often two diametrically opposed objectives in the NFL, but the Rams are confident that, with some creative cap management and extension ingenuity, they can have the best of both worlds. 

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