We might have seen the last days of Oshiomogho Atogwe on the Rams, and we won’t get even a draft pick in compensation if he leaves. That’s the risk the Rams face based on their decision today, to tender Atogwe at the lowest level.
If the Rams had tendered Atogwe at a higher level — for example, asking teams for a first round pick back in compensation if they signed him away — then Kevin Demoff would be obligated to write out a check even larger than the $6.34 million that Atogwe received last season after being franchised.
Analysis after the break:
The sad truth is, it wasn’t a franchise type of year for the Rams’ free safety. Atogwe struggled early in the season to make the game-changing plays he’s known for, and lost games to injury for the first time in his career. Despite a higher rate of tackles per game, Atogwe accounted for a relatively pedestrian 2 INTs and 3 forced fumbles — not great numbers after forcing 27 turnovers in three years. This kind of production was almost unthinkable last offseason, when Atogwe profiled as one of the bright spots of the Rams’ defense.
Back in August, I had a lengthy conversation with Sam and Ben from Pro Football Focus on Atogwe that bears re-reading now.
Will: But are his ball skills “persistent”? That is, should we expect him to continue to be good at creating turnovers, or is that mostly luck? Or something that would get worse with age?
Will: So how should the Rams approach his contract situation?
The thing that jumps out at me in Atogwe’s year is that he was asked to play a lot of snaps close to the line of scrimmage, particularly in the weeks when James Butler went down to injury. This helped boost his tackle numbers (including a season high 10 in week 6), but didn’t help the overall defense, and paradoxically seemed to hurt his ability to make big plays. All five of his turnovers came when Butler was on the field. He seldom got to play in space, and make the aggressive calculations against the pass that give him the rep as a turnover machine.
However, perhaps his best game came against the team’s best opponent, the Super Bowl Champion Saints. Atogwe had five tackles, a key interception of Drew Brees in the red zone, and a forced fumble on Pierre Thomas that slowed yet another scoring drive. His tenacity in the second half was part of the best team effort the Rams put forth all season.
So we know what kind of risk the Rams are taking, what’s the potential reward? The Rams still retain “right of first refusal” on any contract offer made, and hope that this offer will represent some kind of savings versus his Franchise tag numbers. After Antrelle Rolle, Atogwe may be the most coveted free agent safety out there, though, so we could be saying farewell to one of the few defensive stars this team has, and getting nothing back in return.