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Tuesday, June 1, 2010
Bears should stay away from Atogwe

By Michael C. Wright

Atogwe
Oshiomogho Atogwe would seem to fit well with Lovie Smith's defense, but the price would be too high.

The whatever-helps-the-team mentality permeates NFL fan bases at this time of year.

But should the Chicago Bears pursue Rams veteran Oshiomogho Atogwe, who became a free agent Tuesday, to upgrade the club’s ailing safety position?

We don’t think so.

Atogwe and St. Louis reached the deadline Tuesday for the Rams to either sign the safety to a long-term deal, pay him a 110-percent raise over his 2009 base salary of $6.342 million, or decide to not tender him, which would make Atogwe an unrestricted free agent.

The Rams originally tendered Atogwe at $1.226 million as an unrestricted free agent, giving the team right of first refusal if the safety signed an offer sheet with another team. The problem for Atogwe, though, is teams didn’t seem all that interested in signing him as a restricted free agent.

Coming off a shoulder injury sustained last December against the Bears -- a game in which he forced two fumbles -- Atogwe, 29, has picked off 18 passes over the past four seasons, in addition to registering 29 pass breakups over that span. So on paper, Atogwe appears to be an upgrade over what the Bears currently have on the roster at safety.

But his pricetag would be too high. Besides that, the club should allow the current talent at the position -- which includes likely starters Danieal Manning and Chris Harris, in addition to rookie Major Wright -- to fully adjust to their likely new roles while developing chemistry with the cornerbacks, considering they've worked their respective spots throughout all the minicamps and are prepping to develop even more this week at OTAs.

It’s also worth mentioning that general manager Jerry Angelo indicated during the weekend of the draft that the club has exhausted its allotment from ownership for big-ticket upgrades to the roster.

But the prospect of acquiring Atogwe seems enticing. The Bears shouldn’t, and likely won’t bite, though. The club signaled it likely won’t go the Atogwe route when it re-acquired Harris from Carolina and used its third-round pick to select Major Wright out of Florida.

Since Atogwe came into the league as a third-round pick out of Stanford in 2005, he’s taken part in a league-leading 41 takeaways, which would make him a perfect candidate to make a significant impact in Lovie Smith’s defense.

The Bears don’t appear to be interested at this point. In addition it doesn’t appear to be the best time for Atogwe to become an unrestricted free agent, given that most teams have spent the majority of their cash allotted for high-price acquisitions -- Chicago included. According to reports, Miami, Detroit, San Francisco and Dallas could be interested if Atogwe becomes an unrestricted free agent.

Just don’t count on the Bears somehow ending up on that list.