Report: Atogwe deal not what it was cracked up to be

The St. Louis Rams were unwilling to pay veteran safety O.J. Atogwe nearly $7 million this season, a decision made when the club elected to not place the franchise tag on him.

In the end, Atogwe settled for a deal that will pay him $4.1 million this season and will likely lead to a restructuring of the contract after the season or his release, a move that would put Atogwe on the open market at a more opportune time. Atogwe became a free agent on June 1 but didn’t find much in the way of interest and wound up back with the Rams on a $32.1 million, five-year contract.

But as Howard Balzer of the St. Louis Globe-Democrat reports, Atogwe’s contract adds up to a $4.1 million, one-year contract. That is because Atogwe is due a roster bonus of $8 million at the start of the league year next season. It’s not guaranteed and if the Rams were not willing to pay Atogwe $7 million this year, they’re not going to want to pay him an $8 million roster bonus and then a base salary for 2011 of $3.5 million.

It’s a creative way to get things done for Atogwe. He can become a free agent at the right time, or perhaps force the Rams into giving him a more friendly contract. There were questions about his health as he’s coming off shoulder surgery and a reported sports hernia.

The bottom line is he is unlikely to receive money in this contract past 2010. He can pick up an additional $500,000 if he makes the Pro Bowl, a one-time incentive in the contract. Now, Atogwe just has to perform and stay healthy. Then, he can gun for a more realistic longterm contract.

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