Why Atogwe hasn't signed Rams' franchise offer

June, 8, 2009
6/08/09
12:00
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
2009 NFL Franchise Player Pos. Team Salary
Julius Peppers
DE Panthers $16,683,000
Matt Cassel
QB Patriots $14,650,000
Dunta Robinson
CB Texans   $9,957,000
Antonio Bryant
WR Bucs   $9,884,000
Karlos Dansby
LB Cardinals   $9,678,000
Max Starks
OL Steelers   $8,451,000
Leroy Hill
LB Seahawks   $8,304,000
Terrell Suggs
LB Ravens   $8,304,000
Brandon Jacobs
RB Giants   $6,621,000
Darren Sproles
RB Chargers   $6,621,000
Oshiomogho Atogwe
FS Rams   $6,342,000
Bo Scaife
TE Titans   $4,462,000
Shayne Graham
K
Bengals   $2,483,000
Michael Koenen
P Falcons   $2,483,000

Rams safety Oshiomogho Atogwe knows how to maximize risk. He has an NFL-high 32 forced fumbles and interceptions over the last three seasons.

Still, I went to St. Louis last week thinking Atogwe was taking an unnecessary gamble by declining to sign the Rams' one-year, $6.342 million franchise offer.

Hadn't Atogwe seen Leroy Hill take a lesser deal after the Seahawks rescinded their unsigned $8.3 million franchise offer? What if the Rams' priorities changed unexpectedly or Atogwe suffered an injury?

The NFL's other unsigned franchise players -- Julius Peppers, Dunta Robinson and Terrell Suggs -- play premium positions. Peppers and Suggs are pass rushers. Robinson is a cornerback. The NFL values those positions at a higher level. Safeties? Only punters, kickers and tight ends have lower franchise-player values.

There's much to admire about Atogwe's approach. He continues to participate fully in the Rams' offseason program, from organized team activities (OTAs) to minicamps. He isn't publicly complaining about his contract situation. The Rams have noticed. They probably will reward him with a long-term deal at some point.

It's just that Atogwe arguably could have it both ways by signing the contract. The money would become guaranteed and the Rams still would consider a long-term deal. At present, the Rams are free to rescind the tag and Atogwe is free to skip training camp and the regular season without incurring fines. Both scenarios appear unlikely, but circumstances can change unexpectedly.

The Rams are rebuilding whether or not Atogwe shows up. As much as they value him, their long-term future doesn't depend on a safety. Atogwe seemingly has more to lose. I raised these issues with Atogwe. A transcript of our conversation follows.

Mike Sando: What is the thinking in not signing the tag in terms of risks? The Seahawks pulled the tag on Leroy Hill and everyone had spent their money in free agency. Not that the Rams would do that to you, but in thinking through this thing, what is the benefit?

Oshiomogho Atogwe: Me personally, I believe my future is in God's hands, so I don't worry about risks when I make decisions. I think about what I could possibly gain from this and what could benefit me in this situation. Me having not signed the tag yet is not saying I don't want to be here with the Rams. It is just saying my contract may not be the best situation for me. I am committed to this team and I am waiting to see what their commitment to me is. If it's one year, then so be it. It's one year. When I sign it, I'm here with the team. Going forward, if they want to do a long-term deal and sign me and have me here for years to come, then I want to keep that option open in a way that is beneficial for both of us.

Mike Sando: So, the thought would be if you signed it, you would basically be saying, 'This is the deal'?

Oshiomogho Atogwe: Right. It does leave room for maybe a future negotiation, like maybe in a month they might want to negotiate with me. But to not sign it keeps them both open equally. Because now they are not 100 percent sure what I am going to do. All my cards are not on the table. Once I sign it, I'm locked in.

Mike Sando: But by showing up here in good faith for minicamps, they pretty much know you are going to be here, you know what I mean?

Oshiomogho Atogwe: Oh, yeah, they know I'm going to be here, but they do not know when. If I don't sign my tag, I don't have to show up until what, October? That exercises that option for me. I'm not saying I will use it, but it still keeps that open. It just gives me more leverage as far as the decisions I am able to make, versus if I just sign it and I am here.

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