When the Falcons signed Dante Fowler, he was fresh off an 11.5 sack season with the Rams, and was still young enough to think his best days were ahead of them. I cautioned at the time he was signed that he was unlikely to hit that production in Atlanta—the Falcons pass rush is under some kind of ancient curse—but he still figured to be a positive addition to the team.
After a 2020 season where he was limited by injuries and posted just a handful of sacks, the new Falcons regime effectively negotiated a pay cut with Fowler’s team, though he’d have an opportunity to earn back some cash by hitting sack milestones. Fowler finished 2022 as part of the worst pass rush in football and was unable to distinguish himself, increasing his sack total to a modest 4.5 and coming just shy of hitting one of his incentives for 5 sacks. The re-negotiated contract turned 2022 into a void year, essentially, and the Falcons have now released Fowler just ahead of the new league year.
It’s a disappointing but expected ending to Fowler’s tenure in Atlanta, as he became the latest in a long line of veteran pass rushers who weren’t able to produce a whole lot with this team. Fowler thrived with the Rams when there was plenty of talent up front to make his life easier, as he is not an elite pass rusher but has the speed to make him lethal when he wasn’t getting bogged down against quality blockers. In Atlanta, Fowler had very little help in the defensive front seven and predictably his production cratered as a result, though I definitely thought he’d wind up with more sacks than he ultimately had. In the end, Atlanta’s 2020 free agency class was a bit of a disaster, and the best thing for Fowler and the Falcons certainly seems to be a fresh start.
Fowler will undoubtedly find more success elsewhere, as he’s still reasonably young and can clearly wreak havoc when he’s surrounded by better pieces on defense, and he shouldn’t lack for suitors even after the past two seasons. We wish him well wherever he lands, and we’ll hope future signings for the Falcons are able to help the pass rush more.