The Pursuit of O.J. Atogwe: Are the Miami Dolphins Willing To Spend the Cash?

Robert HoffmanCorrespondent IMay 11, 2010

ST. LOUIS - 2005:  Oshiomogho Atogwe of the St. Louis Rams poses for his 2005 NFL headshot at photo day in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Getty Images)
NFL Photos/Getty Images /Getty Images

Even though NFL teams are prohibited from talking specifically about their interest in players under contract with other teams, there is no such rule restricting the media.  Therefore, it's time to examine whether the Miami Dolphins have a significant interest in St. Louis Rams safety O.J. Atogwe.

Here is the background on Atogwe. He has reportedly (and expectedly) refused to sign a low $1.226 million tender for this upcoming season.  St. Louis now has the option of offering Otogwe 110 percent of his salary, which is approximately $7 million, to retain his rights for 2010 or they can try and negotiate a long-term deal by June 1 with the soon to be 29-year-old. 

If the Rams fail on both accounts Atogwe becomes an unrestricted free agent on the aforementioned date and is sure to draw significant interest.  Why?  Because he has 19 interceptions in five seasons and is good for 70 or more tackles a year almost guaranteed.

He's a good fit in Miami for several reasons.  First and foremost, the team desperately needs a free safety.  Right now, the Dolphins options for the position are a pair of fifth round picks in second-year player Chris Clemons and rookie Reshad Jones or journeyman Tyrone Culver.  Since Atogwe was drafted at the advanced age of 23, he also has fairly little mileage on him, yet solid experience. 

His penchant for being a ballhawk would fit nicely with a secondary that typically doesn't cause turnovers (just 15 interceptions by the team in 2009, with the defensive backfield accounting for 12). 

The case against signing him could be just as strong.  If he becomes an unrestricted free agent he could likely demand a contract at least comparable to the one signed by the New York Giants' Antrel Rolle.  Rolle signed a five-year, $37 million deal earlier this year. 

Are the Dolphins willing to shell out the money for another large contract when they have already put out gargantuan amounts to sign linebacker Karlos Dansby and wide receiver Brandon Marshall?  Furthermore, strong safety Yeremiah Bell signed a four-year $20 million contract in 2009 and a consideration has to be how much money you are going to put into the last line of defense.

So will Atogwe land in South Florida?  My instincts say no.  I do think he hits the free agent market because I believe the Rams would have franchised tagged him if they were willing to pay his market value or the 110 percent of his contract. 

He is coming off a dislocated shoulder but providing he can pass a physical (and by this point you would assume he can) there are just too many other teams looking for a talented player at a time where many aren't out there. 

Add in the fact that he is under 30 and you have a hot commodity.  The Chicago Bears, San Francisco 49ers, Jacksonville Jaguars, and Philadelphia Eagles are just a few possible landing spots for Atogwe.  So what do you think?