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A caveat on the lowest-level RFA tender

With the Rams reportedly thinking seriously about using the lowest-level restricted free agency tender on safety Oshiomogho Atogwe, a franchise player in 2009, our interpretation of the CBA on this point has been confirmed -- a restricted free agent who is limited only by a right of first refusal is not entitled to a one-year salary that equates to 110 percent of his 2009 pay.

But there’s a catch.

As a league source explains it, and as we’ve confirmed by reviewing the CBA (Article XIX, section (i)(1)), the tender applies only until June 1. At that point, the team must offer the greater of the prior tender or 110 percent of the player’s 2009 salary. Otherwise, the player becomes a free agent.

So what this means is that, for a player like Atogwe, the Rams’ window of opportunity would apply from March 5 until May 31. At that point, they’d have to decide whether to give Atogwe nearly $7 million -- or let him go.

As a result, the lowest-level tender has a specific shelf life when applied to a guy who made huge money in the prior year. And if means that, if Atogwe doesn’t get a long-term deal by the end of May, he’ll get a crack at one in June, since the Rams will most likely let him walk in lieu of offering him the kind of contract they’re apparently not willing to offer him now.