Tick-tock, Billy. Tick-tock, tick-tock.
At the very least, the Rams
and their potential free-agent safety, Oshiomogho 'O.J.' Atogwe
, are going down to the deadline in their attempts to get a deal done.
Actually, it's looking more and more as if the chances of the two sides coming to a consensus before tonight's 11 p.m. deadline are, as E.E. Cummings might say, far and wee, far and wee.
This is a definite problem for the Rams, as Atogwe has been either their best or second-best defensive player for the last few seasons, and really only the emergence of middle linebacker James Laurinaitis
forces that possible modifier. Atogwe has been a remarkably productive player on a defense which boasts very little in the way of legitimate, impact talent at the NFL level. Despite the Rams' defensive shortcomings, including a startling lack of pressure on opposing quarterbacks, O.J. has 19 interceptions and 14 forced fumbles over the past six seasons. For the record, those are better numbers than those of several bigger 'name' player, such as Ed Reed
and Troy Polamalu
He was very good last season, as well, with two interceptions and three forced fumbles in just twelve games before a shoulder injury sidelined him for the rest of the season.
The problem is that production isn't cheap in the NFL, and the Rams are still very much in the process of trying to address a whole slew of shortcomings all at once. They seem hesitant to commit big money to Atogwe, who appears to be seeking a deal similar to the 5 year, $37 million deal Antrell Rolle just received from the Arizona Cardinals earlier this offseason.
The Rams have until eleven tonight to sign him to a contract worth 110% of his 2009 salary, or O.J. becomes an unrestricted free agent. The best solution, of course, would be a long-term deal to keep Atogwe here for several years. After that, signing him to the necessary one-year contract would be fine as well, but not nearly as desirable. It would keep O.J. here, but no one would be very happy with that outcome.
The one thing the Rams absolutely cannot afford to do is let Atogwe walk away without receiving anything in the way of compensation. Letting him walk at all is a terrible idea; he's an elite player and the Rams need to keep him in the fold, desperately. But to let him walk with no draft picks coming back the other way at all is just unimaginable. I would like to think Billy Devaney is more competent than to mismanage a situation that badly, but I'm beginning to worry.