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Aaron Donald becomes highest-paid defensive player in NFL history

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The Pitt product signed a six-year $135 million contract extension

NFL: Los Angeles Rams at Arizona Cardinals Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Former Pitt star Aaron Donald and his current team, the Los Angeles Rams, were at a standstill over his contract this offseason, but the two sides came to an agreement on Friday. Now, Donald will enter the season as the highest-paid defensive player in NFL history, as the defensive lineman and the Rams agreed to a six-year, $135 million contract extension.

Adam Schefter of ESPN reported Donald’s new deal and added that it comes with $87 million guaranteed. With a deal now in place, Donald will be available to play in the Rams’ season opener against the Oakland Raiders on Sept. 10, which had previously been in doubt.

This offseason, Donald not only made the decision to hold out, but to take his holdout past an apparent point of no return, as he did not report to camp on Aug. 7. That date represented a deadline, and his decision not to show up meant he would be reclassified as a restricted free agent rather than an unrestricted free agent, potentially prolonging his stay in Los Angeles.

Of course, it’s uncertain what might have played out between the two parties had a deal not been struck on Friday, as Schefter previously reported that Donald was “determined not to play” until he had a new deal in place. Given that, he may have been willing to sit out actual games.

The point of contention between Donald and the Rams was the fact that he was still attached to a rookie contract that was not reflective of his contributions to the team. Specifically, his average salary over the first four season of his career was $1.1 million, which fell below the league average. Meanwhile, Donald has been a Pro Bowler each of those years and an All-Pro three.

On top of that, the lineman earned AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year honors in February, making his contract status even more of an oddity. Now, with Donald set to average more than $22 million per season, his compensation will be more reflective of his accomplishments.