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Aaron Donald's recent contract converted roster bonus to signing bonus, most of base salary to option bonus

Friday's retirement of Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald came as a surprise to many, in part because the team recently restructured his contract to create 2024 cap space.

Per a source with knowledge of the terms, the Rams restructured the deal on Tuesday, March 12. Specifically, the Rams converted a $5 million guaranteed roster bonus to a signing bonus. The Rams also converted the bulk of his $10 million salary to an option bonus, dropping the base salary to the minimum of $1.21 million.

The moves created $9.193 million in extra 2024 cap space for the Rams. It suggests that they'll process his retirement as a post-June 1 move, in order to avoid an acceleration of all prior payments that have yet to hit the cap.

The restructuring has no bearing on whether he will or won't emerge from retirement. The $5 million roster bonus, which had no forfeiture language (meaning he gets it even if he retires), was moved to a signing bonus in order to spread the cap charge into multiple years. It wasn't a parting gift; he already was getting the money.

And he won't owe any money back to the Rams. He received $65 million for two years. If he changes his mind and returns, he'll get $30 million for 2024.

Or, more likely, something more than that. It's entirely possible that Donald decided the work and effort and injury risk weren't worth it for another $30 million, before taxes. He might have a number at which he'd decide he's willing to do it again — if the Rams or someone else are willing to make that offer.

That's the takeaway, for any team that would be interested in exploring the possibility of landing Donald. If you're willing to offer $35 million or $37 million or $40 million for one year of football, would Donald bite? And, in turn, would the Rams trade him?

After June 1, why wouldn't they? The cap charges would be the same, and they'd get value in lieu of getting nothing.

Remember, he sent a retirement letter to the Rams in 2022. That sparked his three-year, $95 million contract. Given that it worked before, it's impossible to rule out that his latest retirement is an effort to get more from the Rams, or from someone else, for 2024.