Atogwe angling for a long-term deal, keeping the nuclear option on the table

Does anyone besides Rams FS OJ Atogwe understand why he hasn't signed his franchise tender...worth a cool $6.342 million?

He says he's holding out for a long-term contract, telling ESPN's MIke Sando that this move keeps both the one year and the long term options on the table. Here's Atogwe:

Me having not signed the tag yet is not saying I don't want to be here with the Rams. It is just saying my contract may not be the best situation for me. I am committed to this team and I am waiting to see what their commitment to me is. If it's one year, then so be it. It's one year. When I sign it, I'm here with the team. Going forward, if they want to do a long-term deal and sign me and have me here for years to come, then I want to keep that option open in a way that is beneficial for both of us.

Rams GM Billy Devaney has been very public about the team's desire to forge a deal that will keep the ballhawking safety on the Rams for years to come. The only task that carries a higher priority is getting deals done with this year's draft picks. The team has locked up all their other top young players at key positions who aren't still playing on their rookie contract, having signed Steven Jackson to a new contract last season, Ron Bartell this spring.

There's also the little matter of the change in free agency rules that went into effect when the owners opted out of the last collective bargaining agreement. That rule change ups the unrestricted free agency requirement from four years to six years for a player, impacting Atogwe entering his fifth season. You see, the Rams could keep him on the franchise tender this season, then likely retain him at a similar rate under the tighter rules of restricted free agency which make it very hard for players to leave a team. Thus, he's not signing the franchise tender just yet and hanging on to its nuclear option. To wit:

If I don't sign my tag, I don't have to show up until what, October? That exercises that option for me. I'm not saying I will use it, but it still keeps that open.

Both sides want a long-term deal, the issue will be the deal's cost. A good point of comparison is the six-year, $37.5 million deal that the Cowboys gave FS Ken Hamlin last July. That deal came with $15 million guaranteed, including a $9 million signing bonus. Atogwe has a higher number of career INTs than Hamlin did at that point, 17 vs 14, which might very well carry some weight in the negotiations. A deal like that wouldn't be out of line for Atogwe, but it would have him making more money than Ron Bartell, a cornerback. The Rams don't need this headache right now...though I can't imagine the situation being too difficult to get resolved.

a programming note: My apologies for the silence on the front page this a.m. I had a car accident (everyone's fine) and spent the morning dealing with that. Fun times.

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