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How interested are the Dolphins in Atogwe?

When the clock struck midnight on Tuesday night, Rams free safety O.J. Atogwe became an unrestricted free agent.

As it stands now, the Dolphins have three possible players on the roster who could win the starting free safety job: Chris Clemons, Tyrone Culver, and rookie Reshad Jones.

Those are the facts.

Beyond those facts, though, everything else is speculation and hearsay.

And the latest report comes courtesy of AOL's NFL Fanhouse. That report claims that the Dolphins "are making a strong push" for Atogwe. It goes on to say that while one source believes that the Rams remain the favorite for Atogwe with a second source saying the Dolphins are "motivated" to jump in and out-bid whatever offer St. Louis makes.

However this comes just hours after the Miami Herald's Jeff Darlington reported via his twitter account that Miami is a "long shot" to sign Atogwe, with team sources telling Darlington privately that "they feel better about Clemons in the wake of OTAs and minicamp."

A little while later on Wednesday, Darlington did say that the Fins "privately like O.J. but won't be setting the market." He added that "if NFL-wide interest lags, we'll see" but stressed that the coaches "like Chris."

This gels with what Tony Sparano said publicly on Tuesday about Clemons. He was asked about how Chris has been coming along this offseason, having spent all of the OTAs and mini-camp practices working as the starter. Sparano said:

"Chris had 256 scrimmage plays right now in practice. 256, that’s the most on the team by any player. Those are live scrimmage reps and he’s got minimal, minimal, mental mistakes. So a lot of that is due to the fact that this guy is a communicator and sees it pretty clear. He’s been doing a nice job that way."

However things are not as cut and dry as they may seem. Remember - this is a regime that publicly said they were comfortable with their current group of receivers...before going out and trading two second rounders for Brandon Marshall. This is a regime that gave a public vote of confidence to Gibril Wilson...before releasing him just days later.

Perhaps most importantly, this is a front office that aggressively targeted other free safety options early on during the free agency period. They liked Antrel Rolle and reportedly made him a very generous offer before the Giants handed Rolle the richest contract ever for a safety. The Dolphins then turned their attention to Ryan Clark, hosting him on a visit and reportedly offering him a rather lucrative contract as well. But he spurned the Dolphins in favor of returning to Pittsburgh.

So you can't sit here and tell me that the Dolphins have no interest in O.J. Atogwe now because they are suddenly confident in Chris Clemons after watching the kid practice in shorts and no pads a little more than a handful of times. I'm not buying that. If this regime was willing to give Antrel Rolle a substantial contract, why would they suddenly have no interest in O.J.?

As one of our esteemed community members points out in his fanpost, Atogwe's numbers are every bit as good - if not better than - Rolle's numbers. Through five years, O.J. has only 20 fewer solo tackles and 5 fewer pass deflections while tallying 7 more interceptions and 11 more forced fumbles.

With all that said, Atogwe is probably in line for a very big contract. Will it be higher than Rolle's deal with New York? I don't know. He could be hurt by how late in the offseason it is now, with most teams having spent up their internal budget. But it's interesting that league-wide interest has suddenly dropped.

Comcast SportsNet is reporting that the 49ers have no interest in the free agent safety. is reporting that the Eagles also have no interest. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune claims that the Vikings have no interest. And Jerry Jones told reporters on Wednesday that the Cowboys "are ready to go into the season with the safeties that we have."

Remember - Jeff Darlington said on Wednesday that the Dolphins might get involved if league-wide interest dwindles. Well it's dwindling.

Truth be told, I have no idea what to make of any of this. But if the teams who claim they are not involved in the bidding for Atogwe are actually telling the truth, that doesn't leave many possible suitors for the safety. Who might be involved then? The Rams, obviously. The Lions might be. The Bears could, though the selection of Major Wright in April's draft might be a reason Chicago doesn't get into the mix. The Jaguars would make a lot of sense as a possible destination, if they are willing to pay up.

So what about the Dolphins? Honestly, I have no idea. Let's just wait and see.