Sean McVay on Aaron Donald’s retirement: ‘A lot of people are probably happy that he retired, other than people on the Rams’

By Christian Gonzales, Digital Content Producer

For the first time in nearly a decade, the Rams will have a big void on defense with Aaron Donald officially being retired.

Head coach Sean McVay knows that Los Angeles can’t replace Donald right away but knows April’s draft will hopefully be a step in the right direction. Speaking with NFL Network’s Steve Wyche at the Annual League Meeting on Sunday, McVay acknowledged that the best way the Rams can reload their defense will be in free agency and the 2024 NFL Draft.

“We are trying to add guys as we speak. The draft will be big,” McVay told Wyche. “You have a vision of how you want it to unfold but there are 31 other teams that always have a say. I think once we get our players in place coach (defensive coordinator Chris) Shula and his defensive staff have done a great job of setting the foundation, but you are not naive to the fact that you are replacing this guy.”

There’s no doubt that replacing Donald is going to be a tough challenge for McVay and the Rams. But what Los Angeles has been able to do recently in the late rounds of drafts has been impressive. In the 2023 draft, the Rams picked defensive lineman Kobie Turner (nine sacks in 2023) and Puka Nacua in the third-and fifth-round, respectively. Nacua had a sensational as he set a new rookie record for receiving yards and receptions.

However, with Donald now walking into the sunset in retirement, McVay opened up with Wyche about his relationship with the star defensive tackle.

“You know what I’ll tell you this Steve, Aaron and I have such a special relationship that you know being around somebody as long as I’ve been around,” McVay said. “When they are savoring moments, they are taking it in and without having to say there was kind of unspoken understanding that I had that this was probably going to be his last year. What a great job he did leading, influencing and effecting throughout the course of his career but it was really on display this year. With how young we were, especially on the defensive side of the ball.

“… We’ve known for awhile and you never replace an Aaron Donald. Fortunately, we had a little bit of time to get our ducks in a row but man, there’s truly one of one when you talk about him. And I think that term gets thrown around loosely, Steve, but not only as a player but as a person.”

Throughout Donald’s career in a Rams uniform, he leaves the game with 10 Pro Bowl selections, eight first-team All-Pro honors, three AP Defensive Player of the Year awards and a Super Bowl ring.

There aren’t many times an NFL player can call it a career on their terms, but McVay admired that Donald was able to hang up his cleats when he wanted.

“I think it’s special to go out on your own terms, the way that he did and also have his legacy moment where it’s fourth-down and 1,” he said. “He beats the guard up the field and he able to close on (Joe) Burrow and force an erred throw. And then he’s got that moment where he’s saying ‘ring me’ but that was so special to be able to see him do the things that he wanted to do. The humility and the way that he was every single day and the consistency. There’s no way that I can put into words the amount of appreciation, gratitude and love that I have for this guy.

“It’s one of the most special relationships that I’ve been fortunate to have in this coaching profession. You are reminded why you get into it and it’s to be around people like him. He also happened to be an incredibly special player. I think a lot of people are probably happy that he retired, other than people on the Rams.”

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