When the St. Louis Rams decided not to retender safety O.J. Atogwe at midnight Monday, they allowed him to sign with another team without receiving any compensation. But they also allowed Atogwe to instantly become the top available free agent.
Atogwe is a playmaking safety who could improve any secondary in the league, and it's rare for a player of his caliber to become available at this time of year. St. Louis remains interested in re-signing Atogwe, and still might retain his services. But if it doesn't, the Miami Dolphins and Minnesota Vikings could be lurking.
Atogwe's problem is, at this time of the year, teams have filled roster spots, spent their budgets and drafted other players, making it more challenging for the former Rams safety to land the big-money deal he wanted.
Atogwe may now be the best player available. But there are others. Here is a look at five more free agents who have yet to find work, with two of the best hailing from Tennessee:
In December, Bulluck tore his anterior cruciate ligament -- terrible timing for a prospective free agent. He now is a few weeks away from being ready, but teams are unsure how effective he'll be when he returns. Still, Bulluck is expected to start visiting teams later this month, and it would not be surprising if his former defensive coordinator, Jim Schwartz, now the Detroit Lions head coach, tried to convince Bulluck to come to Detroit.
2. Kevin Mawae, C, formerly of the Tennessee Titans
Any player coming off a Pro Bowl season should not have this much difficulty finding work. Mawae thinks he knows why: This offseason, Mawae expressed concern that his role as president of the NFLPA might factor into why he does not yet have a contract. "Something tells me there is something going on besides me just being 39 years old," Mawae said in late April on Tennessee radio station 104.5 FM. "I hope that our management and the owners can look back past the fact that I am president of the NFLPA, but right now it is not looking that way." To date, Denver was the only team that showed any mild interest in Mawae.
His two best chances for jobs, with the Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals, haven't panned out, as each team went to other receivers. The Ravens traded for Anquan Boldin and signed Donte' Stallworth; the Bengals signed Antonio Bryant. Owens still views himself as a premier player, but teams have a different feeling. At some point this summer, some team is going to lose a wide receiver to injury. When it does, Owens could be a prime candidate to come in as a replacement.
Jacksonville released Henderson the Monday after the NFL draft. Henderson is not the player he once was, but he still can be a force in the middle of some team's defensive line -- and would like to be paid accordingly. The New York Giants once had some interest but opted not to pursue Henderson, perhaps because of the price. Since then, it has been slow going for Henderson. But there has to be a team out there whose line he could improve.
5. Brian Westbrook, RB, formerly of the Philadelphia Eagles
Teams have had health questions on Westbrook, but his agent, Todd France, insists that his client is fine. The Washington Redskins remain the favorite to land Westbrook; they've already made him an offer to reunite him with quarterback Donovan McNabb and keep him playing in the NFC East, this time against his former team, the Philadelphia Eagles. The Rams also are interested, but Westbrook has become more of a luxury for teams, not a necessity.
HONORABLE MENTION: Former St. Louis Rams QB Marc Bulger; former New Orleans Saints DE Charles Grant; former Dallas Cowboys OT Flozell Adams; former New England Patriots LB Adalius Thomas; former Buffalo Bills WR Josh Reed.