Atogwe could still land in NFC North

June, 3, 2010
6/03/10
3:06
PM ET
Earlier in the week, ESPNChicago.com's Michael Wright pointed out the unlikelihood of free agent safety O.J. Atogwe signing with the Bears. Atogwe coming to Chicago just doesn't make sense, considering Jerry Angelo drafted Major Wright and traded for Chris Harris. Not to mention, the Bears already allocated the bulk of their offseason resources toward free agents Julius Peppers, Chester Taylor and Brandon Manumaleuna.

[+] EnlargeAtogwe
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty ImagesFree agent safety O.J. Atogwe could land in NFC North, just not with Bears.
But Atogwe, originally given the lowest possible restricted free agent tender by the Rams, could still end up in the NFC North, just not with the Bears -- although many league observers still feel the safety will return to St. Louis.

The worst case scenario would be if Atogwe lands in Minnesota, mentioned by ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter as a possible candidate.

The Vikings, as we know, do many things well defensively, in particular stopping the run and sacking the quarterback. Last year, Minnesota's defense ranked second in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per game and sacks per pass play. That's what happens when your defensive line features Jared Allen, Ray Edwards, Kevin Williams and Pat Williams.

However, Minnesota isn't great defending the pass.

That's why pursuing Atogwe, at least on the surface, makes sense. He would be an instant upgrade over incumbent starters Madieu Williams and Tyrell Johnson, giving the Vikings a big-time playmaker in their secondary.

If Minnesota truly takes a pass, we know the Lions are desperate to address that position.

Reports claim Detroit may be interested in Atogwe but is leery about the safety's high salary demands. It's not a stretch to think Detroit remains the fourth-best team in the division, but in case you haven't noticed, the Lions are becoming much more competitive under head coach Jim Schwartz.

Pairing Atogwe -- 19 interceptions and 14 forced fumbles in five NFL seasons -- with promising second-year player Louis Delmas would give Detroit a nice combination at safety. The defense already added Kyle Vanden Bosch and rookie Ndamukong Suh, and the offense is already capable of scoring (Calvin Johnson, Matthew Stafford and Tony Scheffler). Bottom line, signing Atogwe won't put the Lions in the playoffs, but it would keep pushing them up the road to respectability.

One player doesn't tip the scales of a division race, but it's worth watching where Atogwe winds up. Even if the Bears are out of the running.

Jeff Dickerson | email

Chicago Bears beat reporter
Dickerson has been the Bears beat reporter for ESPN Chicago since 2004. He also hosts weeknight radio shows on ESPN 1000.

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