Aaron Donald absent from start of Rams training camp

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Now that Brandin Cooks and Todd Gurley have secured lucrative long-term deals from the Los Angeles Rams, inquiring football minds wonder where that leaves Aaron Donald.

Absent a new contract, Donald is withholding his services for the start of training camp on Wednesday. A team official tells NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport that Donald is not among players reporting.

After holding out for the entirety of training camp last summer, Donald reported a day before the season opener in September. Despite playing just 14 games, he matched his career-high with 11 sacks while easily leading the league with 91 quarterback pressures, per Pro Football Focus.

The No. 13 overall pick in the 2014 draft is due to earn just under $7 million in the final year of his rookie deal. Here's where it gets tricky this time around: If Donald fails to report at least a month prior to the opening of the regular season, his free agency would be pushed back another year.

While that peculiarity of NFL legislation might cost Donald a bit of leverage, general manager Les Snead has already conceded that the organization's signature star is slated to become the league's highest-paid defensive player once common ground is reached on the details.

Therein lies the rub. The prospect of writing a blank check that will not only reset the market but also affect the club's ability to add or retain talent in the future is not an attractive one.

Whereas Gurley and Cooks have accepted the Rams' offers, Donald's contract requests may be considerably more complex. Is Donald intent on waiting for the Khalil Mack domino to fall, for instance, giving his representatives a clarified goal to surpass in negotiations?

"Each situation is different," Snead said Tuesday. "Different players, different agents. ... You work on everything simultaneously, but you really don't know when you're going to get something done or not because it's case by case."

As fanatical sports loyalists are wont to do, Rams fans have turned to social media to vent their frustrations and press for a Donald deal.

"That's what we're trying to do," Snead continued. "... It's a little more complicated than that. Definitely agree with the fans. We want to definitely try to pay Aaron what he's deserved and make him a Ram a long time."

How will Snead and his cohorts manage to satisfy Donald's demands after shelling out big bucks for Cooks and Gurley, along with big-ticket acquisitions Ndamukong Suh, Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters?

Before owner Stan Kroenke's offseason spending spree, NFL Network's Tom Pelissero pointed out on Tuesday's edition of Inside Training Camp Live, there was no team in the league with less cap space committed to contracts during the 2019 and 2020 seasons. Even after Tuesday's mega deal for Gurley, only the Bills have less cap space devoted to 2020.

With a young roster and the competitive advantage of a starting quarterback still operating on a relatively reasonable rookie contract, the Rams have plenty of flexibility going forward. As Snead emphasized in April, a new deal for Donald already has been budgeted into the team's financial plans.

Snead hasn't given up hope of striking a deal early in camp, perhaps aided by Donald's ticking clock. The reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year has just over two weeks to report before jeopardizing his free-agency status for 2019.

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