Matt from Nashville, Ill., wonders why the St. Louis Rams were willing to shell out millions for one safety (Quintin Mikell) and not for another (Oshiomogho Atogwe), particularly with Atogwe having played for them already.
Mike Sando: This is one of the rare cases where the Rams got slightly older and considerably more expensive at a position by replacing someone once considered a core player. Your question is a logical one.
The Rams see Mikell as a better fit for their defense. Atogwe was best as a ball-hawker under the previous coaching staff. His interceptions were down from 13 over the 2007 and 2008 seasons to five in two seasons under Steve Spagnuolo. The Rams' current staff is looking for stronger play against the run. I also suspect the Rams see Mikell as an ascending player despite his age. Mikell is 30, but he is entering only his fifth season as a starter. He has missed only five games in eight NFL seasons.
I noticed our Scouts Inc. evaluation on Mikell bumped up his player grade from 71 to 86 in free-agent reports available to Insider subscribers. A player grading in the 80s "has abilities to create mismatches versus most opponents in the NFL" and is a "feature player who has an impact on the outcome of the game" and "cannot be shut down by a single player" while playing consistently from week to week.
Grades in the 70s reflect "good starters" while grades in the 80s are for "outstanding" ones. Atogwe's grade for last season was 76.
The Rams liked and appreciated Atogwe. They named him their franchise player and paid more than $6 million to him under that designation. They were willing to pay that price on a one-year basis when they did not see superior options in the market, but they were not willing to pay that over the course of a long-term deal.
Atogwe is nine months younger than Mikell. Mikell has played two additional seasons, but Atogwe has been a starter longer and did not appear to be ascending within the Rams' scheme.
The Rams' most recent contract with Atogwe called for an $8 million bonus. The team released him to avoid paying that bonus. Mikell's deal includes a guaranteed $8 million bonus. The team is making a statement that Mikell is an impact player, not just a good one, and a better one than Atogwe for their system.