Dallas Investigating Safety Options

Two of the NFL's premier safeties over the last decade — Bob Sanders and O.J. Atogwe — are now available to any that chooses to pursue them.

Coincidentally, RanchReport.com has learned that the Dallas Cowboys would like to add at least one veteran safety, and perhaps two, and has had discussions regarding both veteran free agents.

So should Dallas go after either one?

It's hard to imagine, but the Indianapolis Colts actually drew some criticism for drafting Sanders in the second round of the NFL Draft (44th overall) seven years ago out of Iowa, because the two-time Pro Bowler and 2007 NFL Defensive Player of the Year stands only 5 feet, 8 inches tall.

When healthy, Sanders is a punishing force at the back end of a defense. In his award-winning 2007 season, Sanders racked up a career-high 96 tackles (71 solo), broke up six passes and intercepted two more. Two years earlier, in just his second NFL season, he collected 91 tackles, broke up a pair of passes and forced a fumble.

In 2005, he started all 14 games in which he played; in 2007, he started all 15 games in which he played. But here's the problem: those are the only two seasons in his seven-year career in which he played in more than six games. His 2010 salary was just under $4 million, but the Colts cut him with two years remaining on the five-year, $37 million contract that was expected to include a raise to more than $6 million next year.

Sanders turns 30 years old Thursday, so he's hardly over the hill, but his career has been riddled with assorted injuries.

For someone short on physical stature, Sanders is a kamikaze-style hitter who punishes ball carriers and has the speed to contribute in pass coverage, but the aggressive style that made him a star is the same style that cut short five of his seven professional seasons.

In his first 24 hours of freedom from the Colts, there are published reports saying Sanders already has met with the Jacksonville Jaguars, and there are more teams showing interest. The market is there for this talented player, but the injury risk is just too much. Dallas should pass.

Atogwe, on the other hand, reportedly hopes to return to the team that just cut him. The Rams released the six-year veteran before they were obligated to pay an $8 million roster bonus that was due Monday if he remained on the team. If the NFL's players and owners don't reach an agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement by March 4, players will be unable to sign after that date. Atogwe is free to sign now with any team in the league, but according to published reports, has no intention of signing before March 4, so the Cowboys — or any team interested in signing Atogwe — would have to wait until the two sides reach an agreement on a new CBA.

Atogwe is exactly what the Cowboys need: a ball-hawking safety who can come up and press the run. He had three interceptions and forced three fumbles; in his five seasons as a starter, his combined totals in those categories are a league-best 43.

Atogwe reportedly wants to return to St. Louis, and there is widespread speculation that he wants to be paid like Troy Polamalu, Ed Reed and the NFL's other top safeties. It might be a longshot, and landing him would require some reallocation of some of the team's money under the salary cap, but Atogwe is worth pursuing. He would be a perfect fit in the back of the Dallas defense.

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