Aaron Donald ended his holdout Saturday, arriving at the Rams’ team facility ready to play football. The 26-year-old defensive tackle has 28.0 sacks through three seasons but is slated to make just $1.8 million in the fourth year of his five-year rookie deal.
That is a problem.
“He is the best defensive player in football,” Hall of Fame running back Eric Dickerson said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “I think a lot of it has to do with the cap space, and I’m not sure – I don’t want to say something out of turn. We’ve given away money to players that we shouldn’t have given away money to. Aaron Donald is the best player on our football team. And there’s no way he shouldn’t be paid like he is – even though he has two years left on his deal. To me, his play, if I’m the general manager, (I’d go), ‘We’re going to tear up one of those years and pay you like you should be paid.’”
Dickerson, who played for the Los Angeles Rams from 1983-87 and for the Los Angeles Raiders in 1992, is now the Rams’ vice president of business development. He holds the NFL record for most rushing yards in a season (2,105).
“One thing about a player: if you pay him and treat him right, he’s going to do everything he can in his power to help you win,” Dickerson said, “and get other players on your football team to have the same enthusiasm about the team that he has.”
Paying Donald what he’s worth would also be good for locker-room morale.
“That’s big in the National Football League because most teams don’t take care of their players,” Dickerson said. “They don’t care about the players. And Aaron Donald is such a great player and such a part of the fabric of our defensive unit – we need this guy. We need him. He’s just a good hard-nosed football player.”
Donald did not play in the Rams’ season-opener, a 46-9 home win over the Colts.
Not a bad way to kick off the Sean McVay era.
“He brings an energy that we haven’t had a in a long time, I think, as a Rams organization,” Dickerson said of the 31-year-old McVay. “it’s something we’ve been missing for a long time. You want your coach to be excited. You want your coach to be excited about his football team, and we haven’t had that in a long time. You have your No. 1 draft pick, and you want the team and the city to be excited about it. Last year, (they put) a kid out there without any help. (Bad) offensive line, no receivers, and the offensive scheme was terrible, at best. I’m talking about awful. It was the worst offense the Rams have had in history. So that shows you how bad that offense was. So I’m glad to see him get out with McVay and a coach that’s excited about being a head coach.”
Unfortunately for the Rams, attendance was down for the home-opener. Way down. Official attendance was 60,128. Noticeably fewer people actually showed up.
“We’ve got to get people excited about coming to the Coliseum,” Dickerson said. “That’s one of the problems. The coliseum was built in 1925, and yesterday it was 91 degrees. It was hot. And I think people still have the bad taste in their mouth from last year. It’s all about excitement in Los Angeles. That’s what it’s all about here. They want you to win. If you’re exciting and lose, they’ll say, ‘Man, they’re an exciting football team.’ If our team can play as well as they did last year on defense and our offense can play even 20 percent better, we could win eight or nine football games.”
The Rams (1-0) will hope for better attendance this Sunday against Washington. Kickoff is at 4:25 p.m. ET.