Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Dante Fowler may not be with the organization next season, but that should not stop him from having a monster season.
When I look at Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Dante Fowler, I see a young man who has yet to scratch the surface of his immense talent. I also see a football player who is in the last year of his rookie contract, who already knows the team did not pick up his fifth-year option, and he is either auditioning for another team or will be offered a new deal by Jacksonville if the puzzle pieces fit properly.
It’s not the best situation for Fowler, who is coming off an eight-sack season and has been suspended by the NFL for the first game of the season. Add to the fact the team suspended him (and Jalen Ramsey) for violated team rules, and it would appear the deck is stacked against him.
The former first-round pick can still salvage a questionable start to this season by going out there and playing football. Not just playing football, but dominating from his position. But there are those who would suggest the Jaguars should trade Fowler, who may be a distraction to this franchise in what could be a special season.
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Local media like myself think it may not make sense to do something that drastic, just yet.
"“It’s going be very hard to trade Fowler for a fair return. At this point, Fowler is on a one-year contract, suspended for Week 1 and doesn’t have the greatest off-the-field reputation,” writes Mike Kaye of firstcoastnews.com. “Opposing teams looking to add a pass rusher will probably try to “buy low” on the former first-round pick, as his Jacksonville outlook seems to have a short window.”"
The issue isn’t whether Fowler can be a good player for this team. It has more to do with the play of Yannick Ngakoue, who had 12 sacks last season and was taken in the third round of the 2016 NFL Draft, one year behind the former Florida star.
Ngakoue figures to be one of the stars on the team who will cash in on a big deal next season (along with Ramsey and linebacker Myles Jack). If Ngakoue continues to thrive in Todd Wash’s defensive system and the remaining starters on this defensive line continue to shine, Fowler will be playing for another team in free agency.
Essentially, this is an audition for Fowler with 31 other teams watching and waiting. There are far worse things than being very good, moving on and being even better.
Fowler adds depth to a solid pass rush, which still has Calais Campbell and has added another Florida star, Taven Bryan to the mix. The team would be best served waiting on the season to play out, hoping Fowler can help elevate this team to its first Super Bowl berth.
"“Remember, the Jaguars are AFC contenders and having a strong rotational pass rusher behind Pro Bowl defensive end [Yannick] Ngakoue is paramount,” Kaye added. “If Ngakoue were to go down on the way to the playoffs, the Jaguars would have very few resources at the weak-side end position if Fowler were to be shipped away.”"
I suspect Fowler knows what lies ahead this season and uses it as motivation to prove he was worth such a high draft pick. If so, the Jaguars and the 24-year-old both benefit. Playing the waiting game might be what is best for the player and the team this season.