The Washington Redskins announced yesterday that they had signed former St. Louis Rams safety Oshiomogho “O.J.” Atogwe. While the team did not announce the terms of the deal at the time, according to NBCSports, the new Redskin will get $26 million over five years.
This was not a typical off-season procurement for a team more recently known to “win” the off-season with flashy, high-dollar, fantasy-football-type of free agent signings. Can you say Adam Archuleta? Deon Sanders? How about Albert Haynesworth? These signings didn’t do much for the team once the season came around. I like to think more along the lines of linebacker London Fletcher.
Since this is the case, give me a losing off-season any day. I’d rather see the team go quietly through the late winter, early spring and summer and come out in September with a bang, thank you very much.
This signing is good news folks, for a couple of reasons.
- Atogwe was paid a reasonable amount of money. Five-point-two million dollars a year is not unreasonable for a player as accomplished as he is and for a position so important to the team. While the Redskins of the past 10 years would likely have snatched him up as soon as he was released and offered him twice what any other team had even whispered, all of the signs are that head coach Mike Shanahan and General Manager Bruce Allen know the meaning of both patience and moderation.
- The safety position was one of need. This team has holes to be filled all over the place but defense is one of the most glaring and safety one of the most important. While the Redskins also desperately need a beast at nose tackle, Washington was ranked 31st in the NFL when the season ended and had not yet identified a true franchise free safety.
Atogwe left the Rams having recorded 470 tackles, 22 interceptions, 22 forced fumbles, eight fumble recoveries and five sacks. His combined 44 forced fumbles and interceptions since the start of 2006 are the most in the NFL, while his interception total over that span is tied for the eighth-most in the NFL.
Speaking of fumble recoveries, anyone remember former Redskins guard Pete Kendall’s “moment of regret” when, during a 2008 game against the Rams a (then QB) Jason Campbell pass was deflected? And, after rescuing the ball Kendall tried to run with it rather than just lying down with it? And, while trying to make some yards Kendall was hit by Rams’ linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa and fumbled the ball himself?
Well, you probably remember then that it was our new safety, Atogwe, who scooped up the fumble and ran it 75 yards into the end zone. That score gave the Rams the lead at half-time and they ultimately won the game 19-17 in one of the most discouraging games the Redskins have played.
- Signing a free agent safety leaves the draft picks that the team has free to be used on other positions of need. Any similar free agent signings they can work gives them more options during the draft. One of the things I’m looking for from Allen and Shanahan are managing their picks during the draft and getting as much as they can by trading back and forth, etc. Let’s hope they can work some magic in April and find some guys that can make an impact on the team this year.
- Atogwe should be fine in the locker room. Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett knows the safety from when Haslett was head coach for the Rams. He obviously feels he will fit in with the team. Atogwe must be a “character guy” because, according to the St. Louis Rams website, he was their defensive team captain. Guys like that generally have no problem becoming comfortable with a new team.
- O.J. Atogwe should complement Redskins safety LaRon Landry nicely. With Atogwe carrying the free safety spot, Landry will be able to play the strong safety position where he is oh-so-much-better. Plus, much of the beauty of the 3-4 defense is about the turnovers and Atogwe has certainly proven that he can produce when it comes to takeaways. His signing could bring huge improvements in the turnover ratio of the team.
If the rest of any free agent signings that the Redskins accomplish are as good as this one, i.e., offering good players a reasonable amount of money; they might finally lose the off-season and become winners once the real games begin. I’ll take that kind of loss any day.