Fooch's Note: Great FanPost by Tre9er (with I believe some help from Ninjames) that I thought would be a good end of day post. Personally I say stick with Goldson. Adding Atogwe with no guarantee of unloading Goldson (and dealing a player in his walk year would seem a bit difficult given the money Goldson is wanting) would be a dicey scenario in my opinion.
The safety position has been somewhat of a sensitive issue for 49ers fans in recent years. While physical safety Michael Lewis offers a presence in stopping an opposing team's run game, the issue has always been how good the 49ers safeties are in pass coverage.
Lewis, who fits a traditional strong safety role, is certainly not a speedster though he is rather underrated in his coverage of tight ends and running backs - who are his primary responsibilities in coverage. Still, he can be badly beaten when offenses force him into single coverage on faster tight ends, or worse: wide receivers. This is why most fans are so critical of the position opposite him: Lewis does what he's asked so well that it's important for the team to have a good coverage safety to compliment him. So after the jump, we'll look at the other safety position that is generally more responsible for said pass coverage.
Up until the 2009 season, Mark Roman occupied the free safety position for the 49ers, much to the dismay of just about everyone who wasn't blind. Roman was routinely victimized in deep coverage, causing many fans to throw things at their TV in frustration. Sony reported its TV sales for models 27" and larger saw a sharp decline after Roman was removed from the starting lineup (in favor of Dashon Goldson), although they did see a spike during the last few days of September, 2009.
Upon Goldson taking over the FS position in 2009, there were still some disappointing moments early-on as he adjusted to the difficulty of using specialized tackling tools known as "arms"...in other words, he often launched himself head-first at ball carriers without wrapping up. He also struggled some making plays from his position over the deep middle of the field. However as the 2009 season progressed, so did Dashon Goldson.
Goldson finished the 2009 season in strong fashion with three interceptions and two forced fumbles over the last eight games, including a stellar performance against Arizona on Monday Night Football where he had one interception and two forced fumbles alone. Still, many fans are hesitant to simply expect this type of play from Goldson going forward, as 2009 was his first season as a starter.
The added concern comes in the form of Goldson's contract expiring after the 2010 season. It's been reported that Goldson seeks to be one of the top paid safeties in the NFL, to the tune of nearly $7 million dollars per year. If he puts up another good season in 2010 it's likely that he will seek to be the highest paid safety...a contract that many fans doubt the 49ers would offer.
Due to all of this uncertainty surrounding Goldson and the free safety position in general, another player's name has come up who could potentially step in and be a play maker for the 49ers. That player is Oshiomogho Atogwe, a guy who not only comes from within the NFC West division...but also happens to be dating 49ers' head coach Mike Singletary's daughter.
Atogwe was franchised by the Rams in 2009 after the two sides failed to work out a long term contract, something that Atogwe still seeks. This off-season, the Rams placed a "right of first refusal" tag on Atogwe, meaning no team could negotiate with him before June 1, 2010. At that time however, Atogwe becomes an unrestricted free agent and can sign with any team unless the Rams increase their offer to him to $7 million dollars for 2010. It seems unlikely that the Rams will do this, meaning he will probably hit the open market.
With the "inside track" on Atogwe through his connection with Singletary's daughter, it would stand to reason that come June 1st the 49ers would be in first position to woo him to play for San Francisco. However Atogwe is also seeking to be paid like one of the top safeties in the NFL, much like Goldson. With players like Vernon Davis, Aubrayo Franklin, and Alex Smith approaching free agency in 2011 it would appear that the 49ers aren't in a position to pay through the nose for a safety...much less two safeties.
Furthermore the 49ers have shown no outward interest towards Atogwe even after Singletary was recently asked point-blank to comment on the subject. Granted he was wise to not show any interest in acquiring Atogwe, even if there were any, due to tampering rules regarding players under contract...something the 49ers are all too familiar with after being fined draft picks over alleged tampering with Bears LB Lance Briggs. Still it could also truly be an indication that the team sincerely has no interest in Atogwe...but it would be an option available to them if he becomes available.
So the question then would become: If OJ Atogwe were to come available June 1st, should the 49ers risk letting the 2010 season play out with Dashon Goldson and continue to seek a reasonable long term deal with him? Or should the team actively pursue Atogwe, likely under the premise that they will say goodbye to Goldson after the 2010 season? If they did indeed sign Atogwe this off-season one could assume they would attempt to trade Goldson prior to his contract expiring at the end of 2010, so they could still get something in return for him.
Some key points to consider in comparing the two players:
In Goldson's best season, 2009, he recorded 94 tackles, six passes defensed, 4 interceptions and 3 forced fumbles.
In 2007 and 2008 Atogwe recorded a combined 160 tackles, 17 passes defensed, 13 interceptions, and 6 forced fumbles...averaging 80 tackles, 8.5 PD's, 6.5 INT's and 3 FF per season.
Atogwe started all 16 games in three consecutive seasons from 2006 through 2008 before breaking his streak only starting 12 games in 2009 before suffering a shoulder injury that put him on injured reserve. His production is more consistent and proven due to his starting experience.
However Goldson is 25 years old as of today, while Atogwe is 28. The 49er would like to get younger in the secondary as Nate Clements and Michael Lewis are both past 30 years old.
What do you feel the 49ers should do on June 1st if Atogwe comes available and no long term deal has been agreed upon with Goldson?
Footnote: I have to thank Ninjames for his help in editing this post. I'm not always perfect with grammar, punctuation, and he also helped with some great suggestions for rephrasing some things, adding content, etc. He's a great editor should you ever want some feedback.