Among the big headlines today is the news that star safety Oshiomogho (O.J.) Atogwe was officially released by the St. Louis Rams, who avoid an $8 million bonus payment by sending their best defensive back out to become one of the best players in the 2011 free agent market.
Who could've seen this one coming?
The Rams slapped the franchise tag on Atogwe early last year before signing him to a long term deal and the indication by that move was that he would remain with the Rams as Steve Spagnuolo continues to improve their defense.
Well, so much for that.
Now that Atogwe is out on the market, he will surely attract a large amount of interest and speculation, some of which could, and very well should, come from Chargers Park.
Now, you and I both know that A.J. Smith is not a big spender (at all). If he is ever active in the free agent market, it is simply to pick up special teamers or depth players, so saying whether or not the Chargers will make a move on Atogwe is crazy at this point.
That doesn't mean there isn't a case to be made, though. The Chargers need a high-caliber player to round out their backfield, and here are a couple reasons why:
Good, but not great: I've harped on this a couple of times before, and I'll hit it again: The Chargers have good players in the backfield. Quentin Jammer is solid and Eric Weddle has been steadily improving into one of the better free safeties in the league. However, the Chargers really lack star power in their defensive back crop. Atogwe would give them a solid presence to line up by Eric Weddle, and he would certainly allow new defensive coordinator Greg Manusky a little flexibility.
Injury concerns knock down the price: While O.J. Atogwe will certainly command a decent contract, the fact that he has had some injury problems may force his price down a little, as well as cut out some of the competition that would normally follow him into free agency.
Reforming the defense: This is something that a lot of Chargers fans have failed to acknowledge so far, but it's certainly true: San Diego is going to have a new look next year. With 28 free agents to deal with, the Chargers will probably not be keeping everyone around, so bringing in star power might help to form a foundation for a "new-look" defense.
O.J. Atogwe is a must-consider for the San Diego Chargers this off season. Picking him up would solve the gap at the other safety position (despite my thoughts about Steve Gregory and Paul Oliver, it really is something that needs to be fixed), and it would put the Chargers in a position to address other needs in the top and mid rounds of the draft.
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