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Dante Fowler
Dallas Cowboys

Dante Fowler Jr.’s 3 Best Free Agent Fits

  • Justin Melo
  • February 17, 2022
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The Atlanta Falcons confirmed the release of veteran outside linebacker Dante Fowler Jr. on Wednesday afternoon. Fowler signed a three-year, $45 million contract with the Falcons in March of 2020 and has now been relieved of his duties with one year remaining on his deal following a disappointing two-year tenure with the Falcons. Fowler originally arrived in Atlanta following a career-best 11.5-sack season with the Los Angeles Rams in 2019, but injuries and inconsistent play meant Fowler failed to replicate that sort of production in Atlanta. Fowler recorded just 7.5 sacks across two seasons with the Falcons. He "led" the team in sacks with 4.5 in 2021, but the Falcons posted a league-worst 18 sacks throughout the most recent campaign. Fowler will now hit free agency as a veteran reclamation project that possesses the capability to generate a plethora of sacks when placed in the right environment. Fowler will turn 28 just weeks prior to the 2022 season. We've identified three teams that may show interest in securing Fowler's services via a team-friendly deal in free agency.

LOS ANGELES RAMS

The defending Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams have some difficult decisions to make this offseason as they begin their quest to repeat their success in 2022. The Rams are currently scheduled to be $13 million over the salary cap, via Spotrac. General manager Les Snead must work his magic as he attempts to field a quality roster capable of hoisting the Lombardi trophy for the second consecutive season. Snead's plan must include making several shrewd, quality signings at affordable numbers financially. Veteran pass rusher Von Miller is set to become a free agent after the Rams sent second and third-round picks in the 2022 NFL Draft to the Denver Broncos in order to boost their odds of capturing a Super Bowl. Snead's gamble certainly paid off, but the Rams may find it difficult to retain the Canton-bound Miller via free agency. That's where Fowler enters the picture. Fowler has already experienced success with the Rams after posting 11.5 sacks in 2019. He's awfully familiar with their system and represents a high-ceiling backup plan which qualifies as more affordable than Miller will be. Furthermore, Fowler worked alongside current Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris in Atlanta in 2020. Fowler returning to Los Angeles makes a ton of sense for all parties involved.

DALLAS COWBOYS

The Dallas Cowboys find themselves in an awfully difficult position from a financial perspective. The Cowboys are currently set to enter the new league year more than $21 million above the scheduled salary cap, via Spotrac. Jerry and Stephen Jones have various difficult decisions to make following their shockingly disappointing and premature exit in the wild-card round. A loss to the San Francisco 49ers ended Dallas' playoff hopes much earlier than most analysts and fans expected. The Cowboys must now face the adversity head-on and usher their way forward. The Cowboys will see several crucial players reach the end of their contracts in the coming weeks, including tight end Dalton Schultz, wide receiver Michael Gallup and outside linebacker Randy Gregory, among others. Gregory in particular is due for a sizable raise as an effective pass rusher and might find more money and opportunity via the open market. Should Dallas fail to retain Gregory, Fowler qualifies as a logical backup plan. Fowler played for current Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn in Atlanta in 2020, as Quinn was part of the regime that handed Fowler a lucrative three-year contract with the Falcons. Several other coaches from that staff that worked with Fowler in Atlanta followed Quinn to Dallas, including current Cowboys defensive line coach Aden Durde and secondary coach Joe Whitt Jr. Things didn't go particularly well for Fowler and Quinn in Atlanta, but there's a reason Quinn identified him as an ideal fit for his defense in the first place. The Cowboys may have to do some bargain hunting this offseason, and Fowler makes sense should they lose one or two of their designated pass rushers.

NEW YORK JETS

The New York Jets need pass rushers in the worst way imaginable. Interior defensive linemen Quinnen Williams and John Franklin-Myers led the Jets in sacks with six apiece in 2021, and the team recorded just 33 sacks in 17 regular-season contests. Only six teams recorded fewer sacks than the Jets did, and head coach Robert Saleh is a defensive-minded leader that will certainly place emphasis on improving the Jets' pass rush this offseason. The return of Carl Lawson could provide a boost, but Lawson has now suffered two incredibly painful lower-body injuries that were of the season-ending variety. Lawson most recently ruptured his Achilles’ tendon in his left leg in the preseason just months after signing a lucrative three-year, $45 million contract with the Jets in free agency. Lawson's return is a wild card at this point, and the Jets must plan accordingly. General manager Joe Douglas will almost certainly use a premium draft pick on an EDGE rusher in April, but veteran help is also required. Saleh actually served as Fowler's position coach in Jacksonville during Fowler's rookie season after the Jaguars made him the third-overall selection in the 2015 NFL Draft. The Jets need veteran help and Saleh could turn to a familiar face in hopes of solving New York's pass-rushing woes.

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Justin Melo