Atogwe becomes a free agent

By Howard Balzer
Updated: June 2, 2010

Oshiomogho Atogwe

Oshiomogho Atogwe

ST. LOUIS — When the clock struck 11 p.m. Central time Tuesday night, Rams free safety Oshiomogho Atogwe became an unrestricted free agent.

Unable to reach agreement on a contract with the five-year veteran, the Rams did not tender Atogwe at $6.976 million, which would have been 110 percent of his 2009 salary as the team’s franchise player. That makes him an unrestricted free agent and he is free to negotiate with all NFL teams.

The Rams were in contact with agent Ken Landphere throughout the day, but the two sides were unable to agree on Atogwe’s value. That has been the case since last year.

Had the free agency rules not changed this year because of the absence of a salary cap, the only option for the Rams would have been to sign him to a long-term deal, franchise him again at a guaranteed salary of $7.61 million or allow him to become an unrestricted free agent.

The change in free agency allowed the team to retain matching rights from March 5 through April 15 while tendering him at just $1.226 million. Had the Rams given him the higher tender then or even now, it would have become guaranteed when it was signed.

The Rams insist they have not closed the door on Atogwe’s return, and remain interested in signing him. Of course, any hopes of that happening depend on the interest he generates in the open market. Teams mentioned as possible suitors include Dallas, San Francisco, Miami and Minnesota.

Philadelphia, which lost safety Marlin Jackson to an Achilles injury Tuesday, is said not to be interested, but that report came when Atogwe’s rights were still exclusively held by the Rams.

Atogwe’s name was mentioned in March when rumors surfaced that the Rams were supposedly close to acquiring quarterback Donovan McNabb from the Eagles.

The Rams were on the field Wednesday for their sixth OTA practice of the spring. Previously, Craig Dahl and Kevin Payne have been working at free safety.