Dante Fowler is fresh off a career year where he compiled 11.5 sacks, 16 tackles for loss, and 35 total pressures. As a 25-year-old hitting the open market, he figured to have a ton of suitors even if that was his first truly big season, and indeed a number of teams were linked to him over the last three months. The Falcons, reportedly, are the ones who landed him.
Fowler effectively will replace Vic Beasley in this defense after the Falcons unceremoniously ended his five year run in Atlanta this offseason by declining to negotiate a new deal with him. Fowler, a former Florida player the team reportedly had their eye on the pass rusher in the draft, and now Dan Quinn gets his chance to mold him.
#Rams free agent pass-rusher Dante Fowler is expected to sign with the #Falcons, sources tell me and @TomPelissero. A high-end pass-rusher lands in Atlanta. Coach Dan Quinn actually coached Fowler while at Florida.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 18, 2020
Fowler was the former third overall selection by the Jacksonville Jaguars in the same 2015 NFL Draft where the Falcons took Beasley eighth. Following seasons of 4.0 sacks and 8.0 sacks respectively, in his first two years of his career, he was traded to the Los Angeles Rams where he contributed to their Super Bowl run in the 2018 season. Fowler lost his rookie 2015 season to a major injury.
Per ESPN’s Vaughn McClure, Fowler signed a three-year, $48 million deal. That averages to about $16 million per year.
Fowler is getting a three-year, $48 million contract, I’m told.— vaughn mcclure (@vxmcclure23) March 18, 2020
That contribution was never felt more so than in the NFC Championship Game where he applied the pressure which resulted in Drew Brees throwing a crucial interception in overtime:
Dante Fowler with the pressure on the Drew Brees pick. pic.twitter.com/5R6djaVL0t— Sportsnaut (@Sportsnaut) January 20, 2019
Here is a better look of Fowler’s contribution to that play:
El spin move de Fowler para llegar a Brees. pic.twitter.com/qdWBk4bHlI— Pablo Fernández (@PabloFR_) January 20, 2019
Okay, that was fun to re-live. Now let’s talk a little more about the merits and concerns that accompany this signing.
Without knowing contract structure it’s impossible to say whether the Falcons are locked in for three seasons or if this is effectively a two year deal, but there’s obviously an element of risk here. As mentioned, Fowler was solid but unspectacular in Jacksonville and just solid when he first joined the Rams, leaving 2019 as his first truly great year. There’s no question that he’s a stellar athlete who is capable of putting together phenomenal plays, but consistency of results and execution has been a question mark throughout his career. The Falcons have struggled again and again since the undeniable success of adding John Abraham to get a pass rusher who can maintain his excellence once he gets to Atlanta, and Fowler’s iffy track record to this point naturally concerns me a bit.
The positives are easy to find, too. Fowler is still just 25 years old and isn’t locked in to a long deal with Atlanta in case things do go awry, and at the very least his natural talent has long suggested he can be a special player. Last year also doesn’t seem like the kind of impossible luck Vic Beasley enjoyed in 2016 when his quarterback hits and pressures were barely above his total number of sacks, as his 11.5 sacks were accompanied by 35 pressures, which was good for 15th in the NFL. It seems likely he’ll at least be a genuine upgrade over what the Falcons have trotted out there in recent years, and a young upgrade with still-untapped upside is what fans have been clamoring for for years.
Welcome to Atlanta, Dante Fowler! May the next three years be tremendous.