Can Falcons fans expect another disappointing year from Dante Fowler?

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Two offseasons ago, Thomas Dimitroff gave the organization a parting gift in the form of a three-year, $45 million contract with $22 million in guaranteed money to Dante Fowler, who was coming off a season in which he recorded 58 tackles, 11.5 sacks, 16 tackles for loss, and 16 quarterback hits — all career highs.

Pressures are a good indicator of inflated sack totals, and in 2019, Fowler posted abnormal numbers. The former Florida Gator produced pressure on 13.2% of snaps with the Rams, but his 9.8% pressure rate last year is much closer to his 2015-2018 pressure rate (9.9%). Playing next to Aaron Donald will obviously inflate a pass rushers’ numbers, but the Falcons front office failed to consider just much Fowler benefited.

Bleacher Report’s Kristopher Knox labeled Fowler the team’s biggest potential disappointment ahead of the 2021 season.

Atlanta Falcons pass-rusher Dante Fowler Jr. agreed to a pay reduction earlier this offseason. However, he’s still set to carry a cap hit of $10.7 million, which is a lot for a player who had just three sacks a season ago.

The Falcons are hopeful that Fowler can rebound this season.

“He’s a talented, tough and rugged man,” outside linebackers coach Ted Monachino said last month, per D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I think once we apply those things to his game on all three downs, I think it’s going to help our defense and help our team.”

The problem is that aside from a strong 2019 season with the Los Angeles Rams, Fowler has been mediocre at best as an edge-rusher. He had 11.5 sacks while playing alongside Aaron Donald that year and just 19 sacks over his other four pro seasons.

Fowler is certainly a bounceback candidate, but I think it’s fair to say his 2021 season has an equal chance at pleasantly surprising fans as it does to disappoint them. After all, Terry Fontenot negotiated a reduced salary for Fowler this year while voiding the final year of his deal, which was reworked to save $7 million. However, the 2022 void year will make him a free agent an offseason earlier, leaving a $4.66 million dead cap charge. Even with all these money-saving transactions, Fowler’s contract is still by far the most egregious one on the books, noted in Pro Football Focus’s best and worst contracts of the Falcons.

I personally believe that Fowler will bounce back due to the impressive scheme Dean Pees deploys, which maximizes talent in ways Dan Quinn couldn’t. Still, it’s best temper your expectations. If you think he’s going to get back to double-digit sacks, you have another thing coming, but he can still be effective for Pees.


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