Having signed his franchise tender by the July 15 deadline, the St. Louis Rams have agreed to pay Oshiomogho Atogwe $6.342 million to keep him in a Rams uniform for the 2009 season. They also bought themselves some more time to negotiate a long-term deal with the ballhawking free safety. Though they can't actually sign anything until after the season, they can still at least work on a deal. We've mentioned before Atogwe's reasons for wanting a long-term deal, not the least of which is the fact that he'd be a Restricted Free Agent again next season, making much less money in the prime earning years of his career.
Atogwe and the Rams were reportedly not close enough on a long-term deal to get it done by the July 15 deadline. How far apart they remain only Atogwe and Demoff (and a few others) know, but there are three free safeties who have signed deals in recent years that offer good comparisons.
There might not be a better safety in the game today than Baltimore's Ed Reed. There's plenty of room for argument, but Reed automatically gets mentioned as a candidate for one of the top safeties playing the game today. In June of 2006, a 28-year-old Reed signed a six-year contract extension worth $44.4 million with $15 million guaranteed. Through his first four seasons in the league - the same number of years Atogwe has played - Reed had 22 INTs, 53 passes defended, 227 tackles and 2 TDs. He seems kind of underpaid by 2009 standards.
I've said before that the deal Dallas gave Ken Hamlin last summer might be a good starting point. I no longer think that, especially considering Atogwe's point of view (more on that in a second). Hamlin was coming off a career year with the Cowboys, his first in Dallas. He made the Pro Bowl with 5 INTs and 45 tackles. In his first five seasons in the league Hamlin accumulated 13 INTs, 284 tackles, 45 pass defended, and no TDs. Dallas gave him a six-year, $37.5 million deal with $15 million in guaranteed money. Now think about that compared to Reed's deal, which is, granted two years older. Who would you rather have at FS, Reed or Hamlin?
Which brings me to the Jets' Kerry Rhodes, who I bet is a name mentioned often by Atogwe's agent in contract negotiations. Rhodes, still working under his rookie contract in 2008, signed a five-year extension in April of that year worth $33.5 million and $20 million guaranteed. Last year was his fourth season in the league, and to date he's got 12 INTs, 53 passes defended, 273 tackles and no TDs.
Now, let's take a look at the four-year veteran Atogwe's career stats:
17 INTs, 28 passes defended, 217 tackles, 1 TD. He's started in all 16 games of the last three seasons, and played in 12 during his rookie year. Though it shouldn't be the basis for negotiating a contract, his INT numbers really stand out, to the point that it's easy for some to overlook his good-not-great skills in coverage.
So, what kind of deal is Atogwe looking for? You can bet it's something along the lines of what Rhodes got. Think about what Reed's deal might have looked like if he signed it during the last offseason, two years after he re-upped. It's not hard to imagine Atogwe and his agent gunning for something close to Rhodes' deal and probably between a theoretical range of what a deal for Reed might have been at that time. The Rams might be thinking something else entirely. There are lots of details besides money involved here. They could be having some trouble reconciling whether or not to make it a five or six-year deal. Nevertheless, this gives you an idea of what it's going to take to keep Atogwe on the Rams in the years ahead.