Atogwe Will be Hard to Replace

So, the Rams have lost Oshiomogho Atogwe to the Washington Redskins.

Atogwe was consistently, through actions, told by the Rams that they didn’t want him. Last year, restricted him at the lowest tender level and, after June 1, let him become a free agent. Since NFL teams had already filled out their rosters, there wasn’t much demand for his services, and Atogwe came back for a sixth season with the Rams.

Part of the contract called for Atogwe to get an $8 million bonus last month, which the Rams declined. Once again, they said they were interested in bringing him back, but not enough to outbid Washington for his services. Former Rams defensive coordinator Jim Haslett needed an upgrade at safety, and went out and got a guy that has taken the ball away 44 times in the last six seasons. The remaining safeties on the Rams roster — Craig Dahl, James Butler and Darian Stewart — have been a part of 21 takeaways in 10 combined NFL seasons.

The Rams’ defense made a move last season. The pressure defense employed by Steve Spagnuolo and Ken Flajole did a great job of getting to the quarterback. That being said, the club didn’t do a very good job of taking the ball away. The Rams had 14 interceptions (of which Atogwe had three) and 20 fumble recoveries (two forced by Atogwe).

If the Rams are going to remove such a key performer from their roster, they better come up with someone who’s just as good. There are very few playmakers in the NFL. There’s a reason that the Steelers are so much better when Troy Polamalu is healthy, why the Ravens take a step forward when Ed Reed is on the field, and why the Colts waited so long for Bob Sanders to get healthy.

At the moment, the Rams’ loss is Washington’s gain. With owner Dan Snyder, the Redskins always go about their offseason with a sense of urgency. The Rams don’t appear to have that sense of urgency this winter. I can understand not wanting to pay a player $8 million heading into a lockout. But Green Bay cut A.J. Hawk and his cumbersome contract on Wednesday, and re-signed him on Thursday. Numerous players have signed new deals with their old team leading up to the end of the CBA.

Ultimately, it falls on general manager Billy Devaney to find a player that can come up with as many big plays as Atogwe did for the Rams. As former Big Red coach Gene Stallings consistently said, “To win in this league, you need great players making plays. Well, the Rams showed one the door, and he walked through a new one in D.C.

This is a huge offseason for the Rams from a personnel standpoint.We’ll see if their front office and general manager are up to the task of replacing one game-breaker in Atogwe, and adding a few more.