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Comcast War Room: Safety, What's Left?

As announced previously in this space, Comcast has generously agreed to support the best NFL community around -- us! As part of that effort, between now and the end of the 2010 NFL season Comcast will be sponsoring a variety of special editorial and interactive features on our site. They begin today with the launch of the Comcast HD War Room, your weekly destination for key draft insight and opinion. Welcome!

As we all know, the safety position is still a gaping hole in the Jacksonville Jaguars secondary.  Outside of Gerald Alexander, the other starting safety position looks pretty grim. There are some promising young players who showed early in mini-camp, but it's way too early to pin the hopes on guys picked up off the waiver wire last season and picked up as undrafted free agents.

So, what's left out there?

The safety free agent pool wasn't great to begin with. It was loaded with restricted free agents (RFA's) who had/have high tenders. The best of the RFA bunch is Rams safety O.J. Atogwe, but teams have avoided him like he has leprosy or something.

So, who's all out there?

O.J. Atogwe - Atogwe is coming off a stellar season, but he was only tendered by the Rams with the right of first refusal. He has yet to sign his tender, and no one during the negotiation period really showed any interest in him.  There is talk however, that in June Atogwe could become an unrestricted free agent. If that occurs, I would expect the market for him to heat up.

Danieal Manning - Manning is still lurking around as a free agent, though his biggest asset is as a kick returner. He is currently a restricted free agent, but he wants a new contract. The problem is, no one knows if Manning is an adequate safety, a cornerback, a nickelback, or just a kick returner.

Ken Hamlin - Hamlin was released by the Dallas Cowboys due to a high salary, but he could provide as a short term stop-gap for some teams. He was a Pro-Bowler for the Cowboys in 2007, but his play has fallen off since then.  He's not renowned for his coverage ability, but he is good from coming up and stopping the run.

Jermaine Phillips - Phillips has been a pretty good safety for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, even flirting with moving up to outside linebacker because of his tackling ability and size.  He started 7 seasons with the Bucs, but always battled injuries. Phillips could be a fill-in at the strong safety position while Gerald Alexander slides over to the free safety spot, but Phillips has some off-the-field issues. He was recently arrested for domestic battery (Jan. 2010).

John Wendling - Wendling is essentially just a special teams type of player.  He doesn't offer much as far as a starting safety is concerned.

Atogwe clearly looks like the best choice given the Jaguars missed out on veteran safety Darren Sharper, but it is rather curious teams haven't even negotiated with him.  There hasn't even been reported interest by teams.  The other two servicable options would seem to be Hamlin or Phillips, but Phillips seems to have too many off-the-field issues for general manager Gene Smith, who's made that a priority.

Unfortunately, it looks like help is not on the way.