The market hasn't been aggressive for Atogwe, the Rams' franchise player in 2009, leading to the team's tempered optimism that he will be back.
"I am very, very hopeful," Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo said Tuesday after he joined players and coaches to help paint and construct a playground at the Monroe eMINTS Academy Tuesday. "I am doing this (crossing his fingers) and I'm on my knees all the time hoping that this thing works out.
"Our hope all along was to try and get a deal done with O.J. to keep him on the Rams. We want him to stay here, and I think he wants to be here. It's ongoing and we're very, very hopeful."
Atogwe earned $6.34 million last season after receiving the franchise tag from the Rams. The team opted not to franchise Atogwe for a second consecutive season because his salary would near the $7 million mark for one season if a long-term deal wasn't consummated.
Atogwe isn't seeking an outrageous salary or guaranteed bonuses, according to a league source, but his desired take still could be too high for teams â- including the Rams â- that are reluctant to pay amid labor uncertainty and a troublesome economic climate.