Falcons: Could Dante Fowler be part of the pass rush beyond 2021? He seems to think so

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Dante Fowler would be the first one to tell you that he had a disappointing year in 2020; after all, he had career lows in every major pass rushing statistic — one forced fumble, three sacks, four TFL — and a career-low in games played. Mostly plagued by injuries, he never got himself into a rhythm and his effectiveness suffered. As a result, Fowler agreed to a significant pay cut and renegotiated a heavily incentivized contract.

Thomas Dimitroff signed Fowler to a three-year, $45 million contract with $29 million guaranteed after his impressive year under Wade Phillips in Los Angeles. In March, Terry Fontenot was able to lower his cap hit by nearly $8 million with incentives based on sack totals — $4 million if he records 11 sacks, $3 million for nine sacks, $2 million for seven sacks, and $1 million for five sacks. It couldn’t have been easy for Fowler to agree to those terms because he certainly didn’t have to.

After practice on Monday, the former third overall pick explained those difficulties.

“The decision was basically me understanding what happened last year and stuff like that. Showing that I’m willing and that I want to be here for a good amount of time. I felt like under circumstances that we were in, I could do my part to help the team get better in any type of way. That’s the reason why I did it.”

He certainly feels like he can succeed in this defense if he’s healthy and seems eager to play under this new regime in Atlanta for many years to come. Fowler undoubtedly had a poor season under the final year of the former regime, but there are parallels between Dean Pees and Wade Phillips’ defenses that should spark optimism among Falcons fans. With the Rams under Phillips, he racked up 58 tackles, 11.5 sacks, 16 TFL, and 16 QB 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 rates (9.9%).

If Fowler is to recapture the magic he found in the Rams’ 3-4 attacking style defense, the Falcons’ regime could be delighted to bring him back on a contract of their choosing and not one forced down their throats by the previous staff. There is a clear difference in Fowler’s burst, hand usage, and overall pass-rushing acumen than the other outside linebackers, so I wouldn’t be shocked if he meets those incentivized sack totals and negotiates a deal to return to Atlanta next offseason.




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