Aaron Donald deserves a raise, Rams general manager Les Snead said a few months ago.
Now Donald, a three-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle, apparently is taking a stand until he gets one.
Donald was absent from the first day of organized team activities Monday because of his contract situation.
"We were aware he wasn't going to be here," Snead said, adding, "It had something to do with the contract. I can tell you this: We're definitely at the serious stage of renegotiating."
Donald is due to earn $1.8 million in salary and $1.4 million in bonuses this season as part of the rookie contract he signed after the Rams made him the 13th pick in the 2014 draft.
In April, the Rams exercised a fifth-year option that will pay Donald about $6.9 million in 2018 if they cannot agree to a long-term deal.
Donald's agent did not immediately return a phone message or email.
But Donald, who turns 26 on Tuesday, is positioned to possibly become the NFL's highest-paid defensive player.
Denver Broncos outside linebacker Von Miller earned that status last July when he signed a six-year, $114.5-million contract that included a $17-million signing bonus and $70 million in guaranteed money, according to spotrac.com.
The 6-foot-1, 285-pound Donald has become one of the league's most disruptive players. He was the 2014 defensive rookie of the year and has amassed 28 sacks in three seasons, eight last season.
Donald has participated in the Rams' voluntary offseason program and also took part in a voluntary veteran minicamp.
But he skipped the first of 10 voluntary organized team activity workouts that will be held during the next three weeks. The Rams are scheduled to hold a mandatory minicamp June 13-15.
Players cannot be fined for missing voluntary workouts. But they can be docked more than $70,000 for missing a three-day minicamp.
After the Rams practiced Monday, coach Sean McVay declined to specify why Donald was absent. He said "everything's good with Aaron" and "we're confident that he's going to be a very important part of what we're doing moving forward.
"When he's back it will be great for everybody."
Later, Snead said, "It's a process. We like Aaron, no doubt. He's a really a good player and we want him to be around. That's our goal. I think his goal is to be around and that's what we're working toward."
Snead said in March at the NFL scouting combine that Donald was due for an extension.
"It's definitely coming," he said at the time. "The guy deserves a raise, there's no doubt. Whether he gets a raise or not, he's going to show up, do the things he does. But that's coming."
In 2014, on the eve of J.J. Watt's fourth season, the Houston Texans signed the defensive lineman to a six-year, $100-million deal that included a $10-million signing bonus and nearly $52 million in guaranteed money.
"You always look at comparison," Snead said. "We always do that."
But the price for elite pass rushers has risen.
Last June, defensive tackle Fletcher Cox signed a six-year, $102.6-million contract with the Philadelphia Eagles that included a $26-million signing bonus and $63.3 million in guaranteed money.
The Broncos extended Miller the next month.
"I hope he gets what he wants," Rams cornerback Trumaine Johnson said of Donald, "and that he comes back soon."
Johnson's contract situation also remains in flux.
The Rams put the franchise tag on Johnson for the second year in a row, giving the sixth-year pro a salary of nearly $17 million this season.
The Rams made Johnson available in trades before the NFL draft but found no takers. He reiterated Monday that he would like to remain with the Rams, who have until July 15 to work out a long-term contract.
Snead continued to say that the Rams would wait until OTAs are complete before making a determination about Johnson.
"Make sure, hey it's a fit on all sides," Snead said, "and then we'll not take a summer vacation and see if we can figure something out there."
The Rams have a little more than $2 million below the salary cap, according to overthecap.com.
Asked whether getting a deal done with Johnson would help "massage" the cap for a deal with Donald, Snead said, "All of that definitely helps, when you can have all of that flow and work together."
The Rams have other players in line for extensions, including linebacker Alec Ogletree.
"When you have a 53-man roster, you've got to be able to juggle a few balls in the air," Snead said. "It's not just one person, it's a team.
"So all those variables, we've got to get through. And that's what we're trying to do right now."
Follow Gary Klein on Twitter @latimesklein