Donald's status, Cooks-Goff connection headline Rams' minicamp

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The Los Angeles Rams open their mandatory three-day minicamp Tuesday. Here are a few things to keep an eye on:

Will Donald show up?

Aaron Donald did not attend any portion of the Rams’ nine-week voluntary offseason program, including organized team activities, because of a contract dispute, and coach Sean McVay said he was uncertain if Donald would report for mandatory minicamp without a contract resolution.

Donald is scheduled to earn $6.9 million in the final season of his five-year rookie deal and is seeking to become the highest-paid defensive player in the NFL, if not among the highest-paid players in the league.

Last year, Donald stayed away from the offseason program but reported to minicamp to avoid a fine -- though he did not participate in drills. Donald then held out of training camp before arriving at the team facility a day before the regular-season opener, without a new deal.

After sitting out the first game, he went on to help the Rams to an NFC West Division title and their first playoff appearance since 2004. He had 11 sacks, forced five fumbles and was named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year.

New deep threat

The Rams have had a few sessions of OTAs to welcome their bevy of new players, including All-Pro defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh and cornerbacks Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib. However, the newest addition to the offense could be the most interesting.

Jared Goff is working on his connection with receiver Brandin Cooks, who was acquired in an offseason trade with the New England Patriots.

Cooks replaces Sammy Watkins, who signed with the Kansas City Chiefs in free agency. Watkins is the only offensive starter who will not return from last season’s top-scoring team.

Cooks is expected to develop into a deep threat for Goff, and the two displayed as much on Day 1 of OTAs, when Cooks caught a deep pass in stride for a touchdown.

McVay said it was a bonus that Cooks, who caught 65 passes for 1,082 yards and seven touchdowns last season, has been available to participate in the offseason program and develop a rapport with Goff.

Last year, Watkins did not arrive until the second week of training camp and struggled to develop a reliable connection on deep passes.

Filling holes on defense

The Rams’ defense is stacked at every position except linebacker.

The position group remains a work in progress after the Rams traded outside linebacker Robert Quinn to the Miami Dolphins and inside linebacker Alec Ogletree to the New York Giants. The team elected to let veteran Connor Barwin test free agency.

“We’ll have a better feel toward the end of the offseason program and then going into training camp,” McVay said of linebacker development.

Cory Littleton, a former undrafted free agent who made the most of limited opportunities last season, is working with the starters at inside linebacker.

Ramik Wilson, who played three seasons in Kansas City before the Rams acquired him in the offseason, also is working at the position along with fourth-year pro Bryce Hager, who mostly has appeared on special teams.

At outside linebacker, Samson Ebukam, a fourth-round pick in 2017, is practicing in place of Quinn.