Is Atogwe worth big money?

The Rams’ O.J. Atogwe officially became a free agent at midnight, and now that the safety is on the market, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a couple of clubs make him some strong offers.

There are mixed reviews on Atogwe from people in the league. We can’t deny his ability to make plays on the football, and that is ultimately what you pay for when it comes to free safeties in this league—turnovers win games on defense.

In five seasons as a pro, the safety has 19 INTs and has forced 14 fumbles. Big numbers.

In my opinion, those are priceless. Look at a team like the Chicago Bears. You think making upgrades at the safety position was big for them this offseason? Of course, and that is why they drafted Major Wright from Florida and then went out and made the trade with Carolina for Chris Harris. We can say the same about the Chiefs, using the fifth overall pick in the draft on Tennessee’s Eric Berry.

Playmaking free safeties were once a luxury—but now they are becoming a necessity to a successful defense.

The flip side to Atogwe? Even with the amount of turnovers he has produced, he is coming off a down year when we look at his overall numbers. And, he is starting to get banged up. Will he come back in 2010 and still make plays? Does it matter that he will be 29-years old when the season starts? Is he worth big money in June? Are previous injuries a concern?

Clubs who target Atogwe as a starting player in their defensive scheme will have to weigh those issues.

If you listen to the rumors the Cowboys, Dolphins and Vikings are the early favorites. Even the Lions and the 49ers are in the discussion, plus the Rams could still find a way to re-sign Atogwe.

We know Dallas needs a free safety to complete that defense. The Cowboys have a championship level unit—minus the hole they have in the middle of the field. Miami doesn’t have a pure starter in place, and just like Dallas, plays in a pressure scheme that will ask a lot of the free safety when it comes to driving downhill on the football or making a play down the field.

Minnesota has been mentioned, and although they don’t pressure as much as Dallas or Miami, the safety position up north is average. And just like Chicago, you still need a player who can show up in Cover 2, Cover 3 and in various zone blitzing schemes.

I like Atogwe’s game, and if you have the need for a safety—and the money to spend—then you go ahead and scoop him up. Forget the injuries, and forget the idea that the Rams just let a solid football player walk into the free agent market.

Make a move. This guy can make plays.

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