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Tuesday, June 1, 2010
Big Question: What is Atogwe's market?

By Mike Sando

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What happens next for St. Louis Rams free safety Oshiomogho Atogwe?

The restricted free agent made no visits and received no offers from other teams after the NFL's free-agent signing period opened March 5.

Atogwe
Oshiomogho Atogwe's future with the St. Louis Rams remains unclear.
The market for Atogwe has appeared dead even though the Rams' minimal offer to him made it easier, in theory, for teams to consider signing him.

The dead market was less of a reflection on Atogwe than it was a reflection on the system. The other 31 teams knew the Rams had to upgrade that offer from $1.226 million to $6,976,000 by June 1 -- today -- to retain Atogwe's rights. The 0ther 31 teams also knew the Rams, a team with budget issues stemming from ownership uncertainty, probably would not offer such a dramatic raise (RFA rules give the Rams until June 1 to offer Atogwe 110 percent of his 2009 salary -- $6.342 million -- or lose rights to him).

It's unclear how the market might respond to Atogwe if and when he becomes free to negotiate with other teams.

A shoulder injury landed Atogwe on injured reserve last season. Atogwe also underwent hernia surgery.

While Atogwe didn't have his best season in 2009, the Rams' often horrible offense made it tough for any safety to shine in coverage. Safeties can be at their opportunistic best when their teams are leading games and opponents are forced to take chances. Darren Sharper used these circumstances to his great advantage in New Orleans last season. Atogwe would certainly offer more value to a contending team. Though talented and a core player in St. Louis, he probably isn't dynamic enough to carry the same on-field value for a rebuilding team.

I don't see Atogwe securing a lucrative deal with any other team in the NFC West. The Seattle Seahawks used a first-round draft choice for free safety Earl Thomas. The Cardinals acquired free safety Kerry Rhodes from the New York Jets. The 49ers already have ascending free safety Dashon Goldson. They also used a second-round choice for safety Taylor Mays.

The ideal situation for the Rams might include reaching a compromise agreement with Atogwe. Such a deal would reward Atogwe as a valued member of the team without treating him on par with safeties boasting Pro Bowls on their résumés (Atogwe has none). Unanswered questions included whether Atogwe could do better elsewhere and whether he would return to the Rams if a lucrative deal continued to elude him.