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Rams

The Rams’ Aaron Donald is back to playing like a star, and he’d like to be paid like one

Aaron Donald
Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald waits for a play during the second half of an NFL football game against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Oct. 15, 2017, in Jacksonville, Fla. The Rams won 27-17.
(Phelan M. Ebenhack / AP)

Just down the road from the resort where the Rams are staying this week, there is a white two-story building that features a large logo for CAA Sports, the firm that represents linebacker Alec Ogletree and defensive lineman Aaron Donald.

The offices and conference rooms serve as headquarters for the agency’s golf-related ventures.

But as the Rams prepare for Sunday’s game against the Arizona Cardinals in London, the large red-and-blue sign also serves as a reminder that the Rams’ front office and Donald’s agents are still apart — if not at odds — on terms for a new contract.

Ogletree, 26, signed a four-year, $42-million extension last week. The 2013 first-round draft pick was earning about $8.4 million in the fifth and final year of his contract.

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Donald, 26, is earning about $1.8 million in the fourth year of his contract and is due to earn about $6.9 million in 2018. The three-time Pro Bowl selection did not participate in offseason workouts or training camp because he wants a new deal that will make him the NFL’s highest-paid defensive player.

Donald did not play in the first game, but he has been an increasingly disruptive force in the last five while helping the Rams to a 4-2 start.

Donald recorded a sack, hit the quarterback three times and forced a fumble in last week’s 27-17 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars. He also helped slow Leonard Fournette after the rookie running back scored on the first play with a 75-yard run.

“We know what we did,” Donald said of the first play after the game. “We just calmed down a little bit.”

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Said coach Sean McVay: “You look at what Aaron Donald, getting back into his rhythm, has provided for our defense. You see why he’s one of the best in the world at what he does. I thought he’s made a huge impact.”

McVay said this week that he always respected Donald’s ability from afar.

Now he has seen it up close, on and off the field.

Last Thursday, before the Rams’ Friday departure for Florida, McVay was leaving the team’s Thousand Oaks practice facility around 10 p.m. He saw Donald’s car in the parking lot, so he went to the defensive line’s meeting room.

There he found Donald.

“I said, ‘Man, what are you doing?’ ” McVay recalled.

Donald was reviewing opponents.

“He was in there studying tape and studying the way guys set on pass plays and things like that,” McVay said. “I think that’s a small example of when you have the talent and it also matches up with the motivation, the appreciation for the process, the preparation and approach — you get special players like him.”

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But the question remains: How much are the Rams willing to pay Donald?

McVay has said for months that he is optimistic the team and Donald will reach an agreement.

“As I get more familiar with Aaron … you just walk away and say, ‘I sure am glad that guy’s on our team,’ ” McVay said.

In the lead

Since he began returning kickoffs for the Rams last season, Pharoh Cooper said he wanted be the best in the NFL in that role.

He carries that distinction this week.

Cooper, who returned the opening kickoff against the Jaguars 103 yards for a touchdown, is averaging a league-best 31.7 yards per return. Cooper had a 66-yard return against the Dallas Cowboys.

The Rams also regained their status as the NFL’s top scoring team, averaging 29.8 points a game.

Running back Todd Gurley ranks fourth with 521 rushing yards. He has rushed for more than 100 yards in three of the last four games and is averaging 86.8 yards a game this season.

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Despite converting only four of 13 third downs against the Jaguars, the Rams rank fourth in third-down efficiency at 44.3%

Etc.

Quarterback Jared Goff, who grew up in Novato and attended college at Cal, started a fundraising effort to help those affected by the fires in Northern California. … The Rams were off Tuesday. They will practice Wednesday and Thursday and then depart for London.

gary.klein@latimes.com

Follow Gary Klein on Twitter @latimesklein


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