Intrigue surrounds the Rams as they prepare for the start of training camp.
Veterans must report to UC Irvine by Friday, but it remains unclear whether star defensive tackle Aaron Donald, in search of a new mega contract, will be among them.
General manager Les Snead said Thursday that he would not speculate if Donald would arrive for the first camp under new coach Sean McVay.
McVay said he was optimistic that Donald would “be here and be a part of what we’re trying to do this coming year.”
“The defensive line is a spot we feel good about and we’ll be ready to adjust accordingly if that’s something that does come up,” McVay said.
Donald, 26, is a three-time Pro Bowl selection entering the fourth year of a rookie contract that will pay him $3.2 million this season. The Rams also have exercised their fifth-year option for $6.9 million in 2018.
It is generally acknowledged that Donald, the most productive interior defensive lineman in the NFL, has outperformed his rookie deal. He has 28 sacks and creates untold numbers of problems for opposing offensive coordinators. Donald is believed to be seeking a long-term deal that would make him one of the NFL highest-paid defensive players.
Donald did not participate in organized team activities during the offseason. He attended a mandatory minicamp in June — avoiding more than $80,000 in fines — but did not participate in drills.
During training camp, teams can fine players as much as $40,000 a day for unexcused absences.
Snead said in May that the Rams and Donald’s representatives were in the “serious” stage of negotiating a new deal. Two months later there has been no resolution.
Asked if he was optimistic that the Rams would work out a deal before the season began, Snead was noncommittal.
“I don’t want to get into optimistic or pessimistic because it’s a complicated situation,” Snead said, “and [we] respect Aaron and his group. We’re working to try to find a win-win.”
A prolonged impasse, especially if it becomes contentious, would not be ideal for a team trying to turn around its fortunes under a first-year coach.
“Right now, we’re focused on trying to get an agreement done and then we’ll get to that phase next if that weren’t the case,” Snead said. “We’ll take it step by step and tackle the rock in front of us, and that’s trying to come up with a resolution.”
Said McVay: “Aaron’s a great player. He’s one of the best players in the league, especially at his position. But it’s one of those deals with the NFL, that whether it’s guys not reporting, or injuries or for whatever matter guys have to be ready to step up. And we feel very confident in our defensive depth.”
New defensive coordinator Wade Phillips is installing a hybrid 3-4 scheme. Michael Brockers, Dominique Easley, Mike Purcell and rookie Tanzel Smart are among other tackles on the roster.
The Rams have several other contract situations looming.
Snead has said for months that linebacker Alec Ogletree was in line for an extension. Safety Lamarcus Joyner also is in the final year of his contract.
“We do have a plan,” Snead said, “it is just a few dominoes have to fall into place. … That is what we are going to do this training camp.”
The Rams made their decision about cornerback Trumaine Johnson a few weeks ago. They did not sign him to a new contract, so Johnson will earn nearly $17 million this season under the franchise tag and then become a free agent.
“If you take what we did in the offseason, bringing in some new players that we thought would help and then you have multiple guys who you have got to look at re-signing in the future and it is a little bit of a juggling situation,” Snead said, adding, “We have some players coming up, we have prioritized them and we are trying to work through them.
“So I think that is where [Johnson] falls. But I think that in his situation, hey under the franchise tag, he is paid well, so I think that takes a little bit of the stress off of getting something done long term.”
The Rams announced that Brian Xanders, a former general manager of the Denver Broncos, has been hired as a senior personnel executive. Marty Barrett also was hired as a national scout and Matt Waugh was added to the staff as a pro scouting assistant. … The Rams signed running back De’Mard Llorens, offensive lineman Parker Collins and linebackers Folarin Orimolade and Andy Mulumba. Tight end Johnny Mundt was placed on the physically-unable-to-perform list. Defensive lineman Omarius Bryant, defensive back Dominique Hatfield, offensive lineman Alex Kozan and defensive back Aarion Penton are on the non-football injury list.
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