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Aaron Donald, 3-time Defensive Player of the Year, retiring from NFL

The decorated player retires after 10 seasons with the Rams and will go down as one of the most dominant defenders in the league.
Aaron Donald, 3-time Defensive Player of the Year, retiring from NFL
Posted at 2:40 PM, Mar 15, 2024

Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald is closing the book on his decorated NFL career. 

The 32-year-old announced the surprising news in a post on X Friday, saying, "Cheers to what's next," alongside a post giving thanks to his team and the two cities it's called home in his career.

In his 10 seasons with the Rams, Donald became one of the most dominant defensive players in the league. He's only the third player in its history to be crowned Defensive Player of the Year three times and is one of just two defensive players since the AFL-NFL merger to snag a Pro Bowl selection in each of his first 10 seasons. 

Donald racked up double-digit sacks in six of his seasons, now adding up to a career-end of 111 sacks — the second-highest for a primary defensive tackle's career and the franchise record for the Rams. 

It's a title Donald was destined for when he was named Defensive Rookie of the Year after being the 13th overall 2014 draft pick of the then-St. Louis Rams. He finished that season with his first first-team All-Pro selection and garnered one for the next six seasons, getting his eighth in the 2023 season.

Despite the Rams going through widespread changes in his playing years, including their relocation to Los Angeles, Donald has become a mainstay for the team. He expressed his gratitude for his ability to round out his career with his starting team in his statement Friday. 

"I respected this game like no other and I'm blessed to be able to conclude my NFL career with the same franchise that drafted me," Donald said. "Not many people get drafted to a team, win a World Championship with that team and retire with that team. I do not, and will not, take that for granted."

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That World Championship came in 2021, when the Rams triumphed in the Super Bowl over the Cincinnati Bengals. After, Donald began to flirt with the idea of retirement but walked away with contract negotiations that ended with him becoming the then-highest-paid non-quarterback in the NFL. 

His contract was set to expire with the upcoming 2024 season, so he won't see the end of the lucrative deal. But NBC Sports reports he's only giving up the $30 million he would've gotten to play that year; he won't have to give up any of the $65 million he's gotten in the last two.

But money or the sport itself aren't the reasons for Donald's retirement, according to his statement. The future Pro Football Hall of Famer said he's looking forward to spending more time with his wife and three kids. 

"The greatest reward was being able to play this game with them by my side, and I can't wait to watch them live out their dreams just as they watched me live out mine," Donald said.

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