Thoughts as Atogwe becomes free agent

Safety Oshiomogho Atogwe became a free agent at midnight ET, as expected, and now the fun part begins.

AtogweAtogweThere's nothing preventing Atogwe and the Rams from continuing to work toward a long-term agreement, particularly if the sides exercise good faith.

The Rams had until midnight Tuesday to upgrade their one-year offer to Atogwe from $1.226 million to nearly $7 million, a move that would have allowed the Rams to maintain rights to the restricted free agent. But if the team had valued Atogwe at that level, its previous offer probably would have reflected as much.

Instead, the Rams took a calculated gamble. Atogwe is gambling as well. He turns 29 later this month and he's coming off an injury shortened season, so now is the time for him to maximize his value. Whatever the Rams offered before the June 1 deadline could decline in the future. That would be unfortunate for Atogwe if the market fails to bring him a deal more in line with the $6.3 million he earned from the Rams in 2009.

The Rams and Atogwe are victims of unusual circumstances. The Rams' pending ownership change probably makes them less flexible than they might otherwise be financially. Changes in labor rules hurt Atogwe by making him only a restricted free agent this offseason. Related rules left the Rams with rather extreme options -- $1.226 million or nearly $7 million -- as they decided how to value a good but not great player.

One key could be to what extent the relationship between Atogwe and the Rams survives these unusual circumstances. There's still time to for the Rams to keep him in St. Louis if both parties negotiate in good faith.