FS O.J. Atogwe became an unrestricted free agent at midnight ET Tuesday after he and the Rams were unable to agree on a long-term contract and the team failed to extend a new qualifying offer, according to multiple sources.
Under the rules of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, the Rams would have had to offer Atogwe 110 percent of his 2009 salary, or $6,976,000, to retain his services as a sixth-year restricted free agent.
When the free-agent signing period began in March, the Rams were able to avoid offering Atogwe such a lucrative deal by tendering him at the lowest level ($1,226,000) and thereby risking losing him without compensation. But CBA rules required that when he hadn't signed that tender as of midnight Tuesday, the team had to either offer him at least 110 percent of his '09 salary or allow him to become an unrestricted free agent. Last season Atogwe earned $6,342,000 as the club's franchise player.
The Rams still can re-sign Atogwe, but as an unrestricted free agent, he and his agent, Ken Landphere, are permitted to negotiate with all 32 teams.
Atogwe was considered one of the Rams' few quality players last season, but the team clearly didn't believe he was worth nearly $7 million. He now becomes one of the more attractive free agents available.
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