Chicago Bears: O.j. Atogwe

NFC North free-agency assessment

March, 30, 2012
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Chicago Bears

Key additions: Running back Michael Bush, linebacker/special teams Blake Costanzo, quarterback Jason Campbell, receiver Brandon Marshall (trade), receiver Devin Thomas, receiver/returner Eric Weems.

Key losses: Running back Marion Barber (retired), cornerback Zack Bowman, cornerback Corey Graham.

Come on back: Lost in the shuffle of the Marshall trade were the return of three free agents who should play key roles in 2012. Tight end Kellen Davis figures to get an expanded role in offensive coordinator Mike Tice's scheme, especially as a receiver. Cornerback Tim Jennings should retain his starting role opposite Charles Tillman, with D.J. Moore in the nickel. And safety Craig Steltz will provide reliable depth at safety and will be one of the Bears' special teams leaders after the departure of Graham and Bowman.

What's next: There is no urgency yet, but the Bears will need to make peace with tailback Matt Forte at some point before the summer. Forte isn't happy that he's been made the Bears' franchise player and briefly lost his public composure when Bush signed a deal that guaranteed him about the same amount of money as the franchise tag will pay Forte. It's not a big deal if Forte skips the Bears' offseason program or even misses a few days of training camp, but the Bears will want to find a way to eliminate this issue by early August. Meanwhile, it wouldn't be surprising if the Bears address their offensive line during the draft.

Detroit Lions

Key additions: Defensive end Everette Brown, cornerback Jacob Lacey.

Key losses: Cornerback Eric Wright.

All in the family: With the exception of Wright, the Lions were able to retain the core of their 10-6 team. Among those who re-signed: Tackle Jeff Backus, safety Erik Coleman, defensive end Andre Fluellen, quarterback Shaun Hill and linebacker Stephen Tulloch. And don't forget that receiver Calvin Johnson is locked up for perhaps the rest of his career. He signed a new eight-year contract worth $132 million.

What's next: The Lions appear interested in adding competition at safety, having hosted free agent O.J. Atogwe earlier this month. Adding a safety remains a possibility, if not through free agency, then probably through the draft. And while Backus is re-signed for two years, it wouldn't be surprising if the Lions look for a long-term replacement in the draft.

Green Bay Packers

Key additions: Defensive lineman Daniel Muir, center Jeff Saturday, defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove.

Key losses: Quarterback Matt Flynn, center Scott Wells.

Shocker: The Packers usually do whatever it takes to keep their own players and avoid having to search the free-agent market for other the castoffs of other teams. They started off that way by re-signing tight end Jermichael Finley to a two-year contract, but when they were unable to sign center Scott Wells, they quickly targeted veteran Jeff Saturday and made him their first starting-caliber free-agent signee in five years. General manager Ted Thompson also authorized the acquisition of Hargrove and the pursuit of Dave Tollefson.

What's next: It's not out of the question that the Packers will add a veteran pass-rusher, whether at defensive end or linebacker. Then they'll get back into their comfort zone and start preparing for the draft, where it's reasonable to think they'll use at least one of their 12 picks on a center while also continuing to pursue pass-rushers.

Minnesota Vikings

Key additions: Cornerback Zack Bowman, tight end John Carlson, running back Jerome Felton and offensive lineman Geoff Schwartz.

Key losses: Nose tackle Remi Ayodele (release), guards Anthony Herrera (release) and Steve Hutchinson (release), tight end Jim Kleinsasser (retire), running back Jerome Felton.

Methodical methodology: The Vikings made one big-money signing, bringing in Carlson as a new weapon for quarterback Christian Ponder, and otherwise have spent their offseason getting younger and signing complementary players. General manager Rick Spielman wants to end a cycle of seeking blue-chip players via free agency and instead count on the drafts for his difference-makers.

What's next: One way or the other, the Vikings need to find a deep threat for Ponder. The draft would seem the most likely place for that will happen. They are also midway through a rebuild of the secondary that could use at least one more cornerback and perhaps two safeties.

Sharper, Atogwe could fit in Dallas

March, 11, 2010
Like the Bears, the Dallas Cowboys are looking for help at the safety position, and two names familiar to Chicago fans are also surfacing in Big D: O.J. Atogwe and Darren Sharper.

The Dallas Morning News reports Atogwe is on the Cowboys' radar, although no official visits of any sort have been scheduled. A restricted free agent who was given the low tender (right of first refusal), the St. Louis Ramswould have an opportunity to match any offer extended to their star safety. Conventional wisdom suggests St. Louis is simply waiting for a team to try and sign Atogwe, that way the Rams could match it without setting the market for the five-year veteran.

Meantime, Tim MacMahon of believes the Cowboys should make a run at Darren Sharper -- who recently underwent minor offseason knee surgery. Sharper could be a nice fit in Wade Phillips' 3-4 defense, but as we've stated before, he shouldn't be an option to play in the Cover 2 in Chicago.

Two playmakers to consider

March, 4, 2010
Oshiomogho AtogweG. Newman Lowrance/Getty ImagesSt. Louis Rams safety O.J. Atogwe has 19 interceptions in five NFL seasons.
CHICAGO -- We've seen some big names potentially linked to the Chicago Bears in the last few days, and even though it's unlikely most will end up in Chicago, here are two more intriguing possibilities recently in the news.

  • O.J. Atogwe, FS, St. Louis Rams: Just because the Rams are reportedly considering placing the lowest possible tender on Atogwe [right of first refusal] doesn't mean St. Louis wants to lose their star safety. However, it would make it much easier for other teams to offer Atogwe a contract [a deal the Rams could match], since the tender in question does not require any compensation in return. For the Bears, this is significant, because right now they don't have a first- or second-round pick in the 2010 draft. Atogwe has 19 interceptions in only five seasons, and is the ideal type of playmaker the Bears are looking for at free safety. There likely would be a bunch of teams interested in making a bid for Atogwe, but can a team as bad as the Rams really afford to let one of their few good players go?
  • [+] EnlargeAnquan Boldin
    Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesWill the Bears take another look at Arizona's Anquan Boldin this offseason?

  • Anquan Boldin, WR, Arizona Cardinals: Here we go again with Boldin. Mike Lombardi of the National Football Post reported Wednesday that Arizona is looking for a third-round pick in exchange for Boldin. The caveat being, of course, any team that signs Boldin must pony up huge dough in a new contract. The Bears were in draft day discussions with the Cardinals last year for Boldin, they have a third-round pick, and they have plenty of money to spend. Not to mention, despite all this rhetoric about not needing to add a veteran wide receiver, it might be a good idea to add at least one experienced body to that meeting room, since word has it Mike Martz's formation sheet is more complex than advanced calculus. And that's just the formation sheet. Wait until the Bears get around to actually putting out the playbook.If the Cardinals are seriously asking for a third-round pick, isn't Boldin worth investigating for a second consecutive year?