-- IRVINE, Calif. --? Aaron Donald didn't show up at UC Irvine during media availability on Friday morning, and a source told ESPN's Adam Schefter that the Los Angeles Rams?defensive tackle wasn't there by the 11 a.m. PT deadline for veterans, indicating that Donald may be holding out for a new contract.
The Rams and Donald's representatives at CAA have been engaged in contract negotiations for a significant portion of this calendar year, a situation general manager Les Snead described on Thursday as "delicate" and "complicated."
Donald, looking to be paid in line with his stellar defensive play, skipped the three weeks that comprised organized team activities earlier this spring. The three-time Pro Bowler avoided a fine by showing up for the three-day veteran minicamp, but only worked out on his own.
The Rams will practice as a team in training camp for the first time on Saturday, at which point Donald will begin facing daily $40,000 fines for being absent.
Outside linebacker Robert Quinn, one of Donald's closest friends on the team, doesn't believe the unsettled contract situation will create a distraction.
"Not at all," Quinn said upon arriving to camp. "Even during OTAs, guys didn't let it become a problem. We know it's hard; we know he wants to be here. My college coach told me, 'Make plays, get paid.' So it kind of balances itself out.
"Aaron has a great heart. He loves playing football, first and foremost. He's just going through a tough little situation right now. The guys have his back, and once he finally decides to come out here, we'd love to see his face and take it from there."
Donald has performed to the level of the game's highest-paid defensive players, but is set to make less than $9 million in base salary over the next two seasons.
In other words, both sides have a lot of ground to make up.
The largest contract on defense belongs to Broncos outside linebacker Von Miller, who signed a six-year, $114.5 million deal that guarantees him $70 million. But Miller signed that to replace a franchise tag. Among the five largest contracts for defensive players, only J.J. Watt's deal, signed in 2015, was agreed upon leading up to his fourth season. And that didn't happen until September.
Internally, the Rams extended Quinn and receiver? Tavon Austin before their fourth seasons in the league. But those moves also took place around September.
Snead said Thursday that agreeing to an extension with Donald is "still a priority," but he wouldn't gauge his optimism.
"We're working to find a resolution," Snead said. "I don't want to get into optimistic or pessimistic, because it's a complicated situation. We respect Aaron and his group, and we're working to find a win-win."
Donald has been named first-team All-Pro each of the past two years and is widely considered the game's best interior lineman. Last year, he led the NFL in quarterback hits and tied for the lead in tackles for loss. Heading into this season, Pro Football Focus deemed Donald the game's best player, regardless of position.
The Rams are set up to have nearly $40 million in cap space in 2018, seventh-highest in the NFL. But they would also like to figure out extensions for inside linebacker Alec Ogletree and defensive back Lamarcus Joyner, both of whom are free agents at the end of the season and might first have to wait for Donald's situation to be resolved.
Rams rookie head coach Sean McVay said Thursday that he communicated with Donald "over the course of the offseason" and that he believes they have had "good dialogue."
But the Rams are transitioning from a 4-3 to a 3-4 under new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, and their best defensive player hasn't been on the field very much. The Rams held a conditioning test at 11:30 a.m. Friday that Donald did not take part in. They were scheduled to meet as a team at about 6 p.m., and it doesn't appear Donald will be there for that, either.
There's still no telling when he will show.
"We're optimistic that Aaron will be here and be a part of what we're trying to do this coming year," McVay said. "I think the defensive line is a spot that we feel good about, and we'll be able to adjust accordingly if that's something that does come up."