For Their Own Safety: Eagles Add O.J. Atogwe

For Their Own Safety: Eagles Add O.J. Atogwe

The Eagles surprised and even disappointed a few people when they did not address the safety position in the draft back in April, and after some flirtation with free agent Yeremiah Bell last month, he ultimately wound up signing with the Jets. It appeared the Birds were prepared to roll with what they had back there, but that changed on Tuesday.

24 hours after reports emerged from some unlikely sources, the team finalized a one-year deal with veteran safety O.J. Atogwe, who is expected to compete for a back-up job -- some might say more.

The Rams released Atogwe following the 2010 season, just one year after agreeing to a long-term contract, to avoid paying him an $8 million roster bonus. Atogwe, who turns 31 this week, spent the first six seasons of his NFL career in St. Louis before signing another five-year deal with the Redskins last March. They in turn dumped him as free agency was getting underway this year.

A third-round pick in '05, Atogwe has had trouble staying healthy, which has played a role in derailing his career. A major shoulder injury knocked him out of the Rams' final four games in '09, which in part led to the front office's unwillingness to work out a true long-term deal. Last season, various lower body injuries cost him three more games, and he was relegated to backup down the stretch.

Atogwe is highly regarded for his football IQ, and while he's slipped out of his prime, he can still contribute when healthy. He was thought to be a possible free agent target of the Eagles in years past, so it's funny he ends up here now to far less fanfare.

How He Fits

There's been a lot of talk already about how this addition impacts the guys here now -- Nate Allen, Kurt Coleman, and Jaiquawn Jarrett. Let's jump right into it.

First, the starters. Keep in mind, we're not ruling anything out, but we don't anticipate Atogwe to battling with either of the starters for their jobs this summer. Fully healthy and ready to go for camp, Allen's position appears to be locked down for sure. He played well in several games last season, especially as the year went on, and he has the highest ceiling of any of the guys on the roster.

Coleman's spot, on the other hand, seems a bit more fluid. As long as he eliminates some of the mental mistakes, he can overcome his limited ability and be a productive player for the Eagles -- though that is a big if. Still, Coleman has the upperhand over Atogwe, simply by virtue of being the younger player with more upside. At this point, it's his job to lose.

Plus, coaches might be hesitant to trust Atogwe with a full-time role given how injuries have slowed him down, and are likely to be a factor again. At this point in his career, he may be best suited for situational packages, but is likely first in line if either Allen or Coleman go down.

The Jaiquawn Jarrett Situation

Jarrett seems to be the player with the most to lose, to the point where many folks are questioning if he will even have a roster spot at the end of training camp. There is always a chance JJ could be released, but he would have to be a flop of epic proportions to receive the boot after one year. He's a second-round pick, so this would be much worse than Daniel Te'o-Nesheim.

Besides the Atogwe signing, the basis for that line of thinking seems to be built on two points: the fact that Jarrett couldn't get on the field during his rookie season, and the lack of hype coming out of off-season programs. Given that the club normally carries four safeties, and the fourth is usually a special teams contributor like Colt Anderson, there may not be room for Jarrett unless he proves his value.

I think the Eagles realize what a serious disadvantage Jarrett was at from the moment he joined the team. We tend to think of physical safeties like Brian Dawkins who run to the ball and wreak havoc with their bodies, but the position is cerebral as well. In the absence of last offseason, which was eliminated by the lockout, a rookie like Jarrett would understandably have a hard time getting up to speed on the mental aspects of the game.

With the benefit of a full offseason, he should improve. Unfortunately, we didn't hear much about Jarrett in the Spring, and the suggestion is that means he is not getting better, not fast enough anyway. The addition of Atogwe would seem to confirm that.

However, adding a veteran safety always seemed like the smart play. If Jarrett was so bad last season, and it was primarily an issue of preparation, why would anybody expect him to have a firm grasp on the nuances of the position less than a year later? And considering the collective inexperience of the group as a whole -- five seasons between the three of them -- adding a smart veteran such as Atogwe to the mix only serves to help.

I'm the wait-and-see type with young players, sometimes to my own detriment, but this kid hasn't even had a chance. Maybe Jarrett's job is on the line here, but I'm not ready to believe the Eagles would cut the cord so fast, not given the circumstances. They made the investment, they can find a roster spot, and if they believe he could play at all, it seems like they have to give him an opportunity to gain experience under optimal conditions.

NFL Notes: Andy Reid doesn't believe costly hold on Chiefs was worth flag

NFL Notes: Andy Reid doesn't believe costly hold on Chiefs was worth flag

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Chiefs coach Andy Reid doesn't believe the holding penalty on left tackle Eric Fisher that cost Kansas City a tying 2-point conversion against Pittsburgh on Sunday night should have been called.

After watching film of the decisive play in the Steelers' 18-16 playoff victory, Reid said Monday that "I don't want to be fined any money, but I'd lean a different way."

Fisher appeared to hook Steelers pass rusher James Harrison on the conversion attempt with less than 3 minutes left in the game.

But the play was not cut-and-dried: Harrison dipped especially low and may have been losing his balance, and he likely would not have gotten to the quarterback anyway.

Still, the flag negated the successful 2-point conversion. And when the Chiefs tried again from the 12-yard line, Alex Smith's throw fell incomplete and the Steelers were able to run out the clock.

PATRIOTS: McDaniels staying on as OC
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels expressed appreciation for the opportunity to interview with the San Francisco 49ers but says for now he will remain in New England.

He said during a conference call Monday that the decision was what's "best for my family and myself" and that he will stay with the Patriots to focus on this year's playoffs and finish out the season "however it turns out."

McDaniels, who was a head coach with the Denver Broncos in 2009 and 2010, interviewed with the 49ers during the Patriots' bye to open the playoffs. He also interviewed with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Both McDaniels and Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia have been candidates for teams with open head coaching jobs this offseason after helping lead the Patriots to 14-2 regular season.

New England beat the Houston Texans 34-16 in the divisional round and will host the Pittsburgh Steelers in Sunday's AFC championship game.

SEAHAWKS: Carroll says Sherman played with MCL injury
RENTON, Wash. -- Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said on his radio show Monday morning that cornerback Richard Sherman played the second half of the season with an MCL injury in his knee.

Carroll told KIRO-AM that Sherman's injury was significant and it was "stressful" for Sherman to play with the injury.

Carroll did not specify which knee was injured, but said it was similar to Russell Wilson's sprained MCL suffered early in the season in that Sherman could play with the injury.

Sherman was not listed on any injury/practice report this season with a knee injury.

Any practices he missed were listed with the "NIR" -- not injury related -- designation with the exception of Week 12 against Tampa Bay when he was listed with an ankle injury.

Carroll said he had a "big meeting" with Sherman in regards to a tumultuous season for the cornerback that included two sideline blowups during games. "He has some regrets," Carroll said.

TITANS: Former Temple coach Jackson hired as WR coach
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Tennessee Titans have hired Frisman Jackson as their new wide receivers coach and Craig Aukerman as assistant special teams coach.

The Titans announced the moves Monday.

Jackson joins the Titans from Temple where he was passing game coordinator this past season and wide receivers coach the past two seasons. Jackson also coached at North Carolina State, Northern Illinois, Akron and Western Illinois.

Titans offensive coordinator Terry Robiskie also coached Jackson when he was a wide receiver for four seasons with the Cleveland Browns.

Aukerman spent the past four seasons coaching the Chargers' special teams, the most recent as special teams coordinator, and has coached with the Jaguars and Broncos. He also coached at Kent State, Miami (Ohio), Western Kentucky and Findlay.

Source: Phillies have agreement with free-agent OF Michael Saunders

Source: Phillies have agreement with free-agent OF Michael Saunders

The Phillies are putting the finishing touches on a deal with outfielder Michael Saunders, according to a source.

Jon Morosi of MLB.com reported the deal was close early Monday afternoon.

When the medical reviews and other loose ends are complete, Saunders will end up with a one-year contract for 2017. It is believed that there will be an option for 2018.

Saunders, 30, will give the Phils the left-handed bat they’ve been looking for in the outfield. Saunders is likely to play right field and his addition will likely push Roman Quinn back to Triple A, where he will get more seasoning.

Saunders is a veteran of eight seasons in the majors. He played in a career-high 140 games with Toronto in 2016 and made the American League All-Star team on the strength of a first half in which he hit .298 with 16 homers, 42 RBIs and a .923 OPS. He fell off in the second half and hit just .178 with eight homers, 15 RBIs and a .638 OPS. Saunders finished the season at .253/24/57/.815.

With less than a month to go before spring training, the Phillies are likely done with their significant offseason moves. The offseason began with trades for reliever Pat Neshek and outfielder Howie Kendrick. Later in the winter, the club traded for starting pitcher Clay Buchholz and signed reliever Joaquin Benoit. Now Saunders is on his way.