USA TODAY Sports photo
USA TODAY Sports photo

The Rams arguably put the cart in front of the horse early this offseason, one of the more aggressive by any NFL team in recent memory. But the horse has returned to its rightful place — again leading the way for a dramatically upgraded defense that's now perhaps as talented as any in football.

Reigning Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald, previously a training-camp holdout as he sought to become among the league's highest-paid players, agreed to terms on a six-year, $135 million dollar extension on Friday, including $87 million guaranteed, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.

Donald, 27, resets the DT market, to the surprise of no one. But he also becomes the highest-paid defender ever, surpassing Von Miller's $70 million guaranteed and $19 million average – well-deserved recognition for the most destructive defensive force in the game a year ago. Donald tallied 91(!) pressures, 11 sacks, 15 tackles for loss, five forced fumbles and 27 QB hits in only 14 starts after missing Week 1 following his 2017 holdout and sitting out the finale with the NFC West champion Rams' playoff seeding secured.

In his first four seasons, Donald, the 13th overall player selected in 2014, when he won Defensive Rookie of the Year, has 39 sacks and 72 tackles for loss. He's been to the Pro Bowl all four seasons and named a first-team All Pro each of the past three years.

Indeed, Donald's resume is unimpeachable. And yet there was some doubt, at least externally, regarding the Rams' ability to seal his deal after an explosive offseason with trades for CBs Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib and WR Brandin Cooks, contract extensions for Cooks and RB Todd Gurley to deals combining for more than $90 million guaranteed and the signing of Donald's new DT partner in crime, Ndamukong Suh, to a one-year, $14 million deal, all preceding the appeasing of their brightest homegrown star.

But credit is due to Kevin Demoff, Les Snead and Sean McVay, the trio that helped get it all done. It's likely that next offseason will bring with it a new wave of contract consternation potentially involving Peters and franchise recipient S Lamarcus Joyner, and Jared Goff's second NFL contract won't be that much farther down the road.

For now, the Rams' ambitious offseason can shift to a singular regular-season focus: Representing the NFC in Super Bowl LIII.