Devil's Advocate: Looking at the Atogwe Situation

With the June 1st deadline looming, I thought it would be interesting to see why O.J. Atogwe might be worth the money that everyone seems to believe he is not. It is always hard to put a factual spin on an opinion, especially regarding financing for an NFL team. I don't think he is worth this much money, but that isn't the point of being a devil's advocate. So let the convincing (or lack thereof) begin.

Hit the jump to continue.

It was tough for me to get enough statistics that actually make it worthwhile, but one thing TST has taken a good look at recently are the stats presented by Advanced NFL Stats. I'll be taking a look at the past four years to see how O.J. has performed against the competition at the same position he plays. Let's make use of the handy-dandy chart feature first though...

Year +WPA +EPA TF
2006 1.17 (14th) 30.6 (24th) 1.08 (23rd)
2007 1.41 (3rd) 38.0 (7th) 1.08 (21st)
2008 1.26 (7th) 51.6 (3rd) 1.17 (17th)
2009 1.00 (22nd) 31.6 (27th) 1.32 (11th)

 

Just by glancing at these numbers, you can tell a couple of things. First off, Atogwe has 'improved' his tackle factor (TF) every year. That means he gets more tackles then the average amount at his position. That isn't necessarily a good thing, considering a free safety isn't normally supposed to be a tackling machine, but take from it what you will. These past few years he has had pretty good stats. It's hard to measure how much being on a bad team influenced OJ, or how a change in defensive scheme brought his numbers down. Since I'm arguing for him, I will suggest that this was merely an 'outlier' year and that his past seasons suggest he is capable and able to play at a much higher level. Considering the Rams will most likely improve this next year (we can only hope) one can reasonably assume his ability to play at a higher level will increase. Many people say that Atogwe is not a Top-5 or even Top-10 safety, but these numbers clearly show that Atogwe is one of the better safeties in the league, quite capable of being one of the best.

 

Next are his actual stats. They are compared against some of the big names today, such as Troy Polamalu, Ed Reed and Darren Sharper (he's thrown in there just because he's also a free agent, and whatever deal he gets is reflective of OJ's).

INT's 2009 2008 2007 2006 Total
Ed Reed 3 9 7 5 24
Troy Polamalu 3 7 0 3 13
Darren Sharper 9 1 4 4 18
O.J. Atogwe 2 5 8 3 18

 

FF's 2009 2008 2007 2006 Total
Ed Reed 3 1 0 1 5
Troy Polamalu 0 0 3 1 4
Darren Sharper 0 0 1 1 2
O.J. Atogwe 3 6 0 5 14

 

As the Forced Fumble and Interception charts show, Atogwe numbers are absolutely comparable to that of Ed Reed's, Troy Polamalu's and Darren Sharper's. Over the past four years, O.J. has created at 32 possible turnover situations. This is more then all three of them. In fact, Atogwe has more forced fumbles then all three combined over the four year period. We've already taken a look at the fact that the amount of tackles he has per year is above-average for a free safety (and like before, you can decide for yourself whether that is a good or bad thing) and the other fact is that he is an absolute ball-hawk safety. No other team can say that their free safety statistically creates a turnover opportunity (and a chance to get the ball with good field position, since this Rams offense obviously needs all the help it can get) every other game and that sort of play making ability greatly helps this young defense.

Next, we should take at his paycheck and compare it to other safeties. For that, I'll be using USATODAY.com. Quickly glancing at 2009's salaries for safeties shows that Oshiomogho Atogwe was the 4th highest paid safety behind Adrian Wilson (7.041 million), Troy Polamalu (6.5 million) and Ed Reed (6.404 million). Also, a quick note, keep in mind these are cap values. I'm not salary expert when it comes to the NFL, but I am aware there is no cap this year. How that affects these values, I'm not sure, but feel free to draw your own conclusions. O.J's cap value was exactly $6,342,021. Besides the fact that a somebody playing a game makes that much money (it's sickening), his paycheck really isn't that eye-opening. His paycheck is comparable to players Ed Reed, Troy Polamalu, Chris Hope and Kerry Rhodes. These are players that statistically he is comparable to, so it doesn't seem outrageous to assume he could command a 5 million plus dollar contract.

 

In conclusion, the Rams of old made a name for themselves because they used to let defensive players go, only to draft or find sub-par replacements. While this front office and coaching staff are worlds better, you can't help but wonder if they are making the same mistake. Should they be worried about paying one person on the team that much? Of course! Any player with that high a salary is always at risk to make the front office look like the Raiders. But if they didn't think he deserved that much money, they shouldn't have franchised him- plain and simple. Who knows how much Atogwe believes he is worth, but looking through all this data, I can't find a reason not to think that he deserves somewhere in the ballpark of how much he was paid last year. Looking through the salaries, I'd be insulted if the Rams offered me a 1.26 million dollar contract as well- even James Butler was paid almost twice that. That's all that I can throw behind this argument. Agree or not, the Rams definitely have some decision making to do.

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