AFC East: O.J. Atogwe

Bob Sanders not headed to Bills or Jets

March, 3, 2011
After visiting the Buffalo Bills last week and the New York Jets on Wednesday, free-agent safety Bob Sanders beat the CBA clock by signing with the San Diego Chargers on Thursday night, ESPN's Adam Schefter reports.

Sanders spent seven seasons with the Indianapolis Colts. He was the NFL's defensive player of the year in 2007, but has been healthy enough to play only nine games in the three seasons since.

The Bills and Jets were interested enough in gambling on Sanders to host him. Both clubs are in need of safeties.

Donte Whitner was Buffalo's strong safety last year, but he's a free agent. Two of New York's safeties, Eric Smith and Brodney Pool, also are free agents. Jim Leonhard is recovering from a broken shin.

Sanders was the second safety to reach terms Thursday. O.J. Atogwe, recently released by the St. Louis Rams, signed with the Washington Redskins.

Dolphins not into O.J. Atogwe, but Bills are

February, 24, 2011
INDIANAPOLIS -- League sources at the NFL scouting combine tell me the Miami Dolphins aren't particularly interested in unattached safety O.J. Atogwe, but the Buffalo Bills probably will check him out.

Atogwe, released by the St. Louis Rams last week because he was due an $8 million roster bonus, could visit One Bills Drive right after the NFL scouting combine. The Bills hosted free-agent strong safety Bob Sanders on Tuesday night.

Atogwe already has visited the Washington Redskins, where former Rams defensive coordinator Jim Haslett works now. The six-year veteran started 15 games and was a captain for the Rams last season. He recorded three interceptions, two sacks and two forced fumbles.

He made a career-high eight interceptions in 2007. His best all-around campaign was 2008, when he had five interceptions, six forced fumbles and three recoveries.

Buffalo needs safety help because Donte Whitner and top backup George Wilson are about to become free agents.

Miami boasts a solid defensive unit, but its biggest weakness might be free safety. Strong safety Yeremiah Bell has been a asset. But for the past few years the Dolphins have been susceptible to deep plays up the middle. Last season was no different with Chris Clemons.

Donte Whitner monitoring job speculation

February, 21, 2011
Donte Whitner seems intrigued by speculation the Buffalo Bills might be interested in newly unattached safeties Bob Sanders and O.J. Atogwe.

Whitner has been retweeting links to stories that wonder if the Bills would chase either free agent as a replacement for him. Whitner's contract is about to expire, and he hasn't played up to his draft position. The Bills used the eighth overall pick on him in 2006.

Whitner, one of the NFL's more media-aware players, has retweeted five links so far Monday, including a poll that asks fans to choose their ideal starting strong safety: Atogwe, Sanders, Whinter or George Wilson, also a free-agent-to-be.

Another story Whitner linked was from National Football Post writer Matt Bowen, a seven-year NFL safety whose last year was spent in Buffalo when Whitner was a rookie.

Bowen named Buffalo the team that should most hotly pursue Sanders.

Bowen writes:
There is some interest on the part of the Bills. Buffalo has a player in safety Jarius Byrd who will go after the football, but they need another impact player at the position. Donte Whitner wasn't the play maker Buffalo envisioned when they made him a first round pick, and with his contract up, the Bills could look at Sanders to possibly slide into the secondary in 2011. The question for defensive coordinator George Edwards would be where to play him: at free or strong.

Buffalo's interest level, of course, will be commensurate with Sanders' -- or Atogwe's or anybody else's -- price tag. Sanders was a first-team All-Pro for the Indianapolis Colts in 2005 and 2007, but he has played only nine games the past three years.

Buffalo already has taken a gamble on outside linebacker Shawne Merriman with a contract predicated on whether he returns from the Achilles injury that ended his season. If the Bills were to roll the dice with Sanders, then they still should re-sign Wilson or another reliable veteran who can be trusted to play long stretches.

On the Radar: Chris Clemons

June, 10, 2010
NFC On the Radar: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

A player, coach or issue that should be on your radar as training camp approaches.

DAVIE, Fla. -- One of the Miami Dolphins' biggest weaknesses heading into the offseason was free safety.

[+] EnlargeChris Clemons
AP Photo/Phil CoaleThe Dolphins are hoping Chris Clemons is the answer at safety.
They released last year's starter, Gibril Wilson, despite signing him to a lucrative contract last year. They courted free agent Ryan Clark, but he opted to re-sign with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

That left the Dolphins with seemingly very little to work with. Last year's backup, Tyrone Culver, has two career starts in three NFL seasons. Chris Clemons started two games at free safety as a rookie last year. The Dolphins also drafted Reshad Jones out of Georgia in the fifth round.

Free safety is such a question mark that many observers believed the Dolphins would pursue St. Louis Rams free agent O.J. Atogwe, but we haven't seen any signs of serious interest yet.

Maybe that's because of Clemons, who has been making a strong impression throughout minicamp and voluntary workouts.

"Speed, range, and he knows. He understands," Dolphins coach Tony Sparano said of Clemons, last year's fifth-round pick from Clemson. "He's been pretty vocal, and those are all qualities that your free safety has to have."

Sparano expressed curiosity in Clemons' tackling ability. They don't have reels of tape on Clemons against NFL competition. He was scratched from the first five games and played in nine as a reserve in addition to his two starts.

He finished the season with seven tackles and zero passes defensed.

"That guy has to be a good tackler back there," Sparano said. "So that's the next step.

"The range, the speed, the mental awareness right now and where he is with our defense is what leads me to believe that the guy can be a good player for us."