Falcons: There is a good chance Dante Fowler Jr. is back in 2021

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Recent reports suggest the Falcons are narrowing in on Terry Fontenot to be the next general manager, but it wouldn’t matter who was brought in; Dante Fowler will be on this team next year. However, it isn’t because of his uninspiring play this past season. Please make no mistake about it; the staff has expressed their displeasure with Fowler’s output.

Chase wrote an overreaction piece on the former Rams’ contract after a Week 7 loss to the Lions. A quote from the article,

Every season, it seemed like Fowler got a little bit better, which culminated with his performance last year in which he racked up 58 tackles, 11.5 sacks, 16 TFL, and 16 QB hits — all career-highs. However, while I was never worried about Fowler being an upgrade over Beasley, I was concerned that last season was more of a flash in the pan rather than something he would produce every year, and so far in 2020, that has proven to be the case.

Quarterback pressures are the most indicative statistic that a pass-rusher is consistently getting home. Sacks are nice but sometimes can be inflated by luck or someone’s supporting cast.

But the fact remains, Dante Fowler is owed quite a large sum of money over the next two years. Jake examined his contract, noting the possible options and their financial ramifications.

2021 Pre June 1st Cut:                                                                  2022 Pre June 1st Cut: 
  • Dead Cap: $15.3 million                                                                   Dead Cap: $4.7 million         
  • Savings: $3.3 million                                                                         Savings: $14 million
2021 Pre June 1st Trade:                                                              2022 Pre June 1st Trade:
  • Dead Cap: $4.7 million                                                                      Dead Cap: $4.7 million
  • Savings: $14 million                                                                           Savings: $15 million
2021 Post June 1st Cut:                                                                 2022 Post June 1st Cut:
  • Dead Cap: $10.7 million                                                                   Dead Cap: $4.7 million
  • Savings: $8 million                                                                             Savings: $15 million
2021 Post June 1st Trade:                                                             2022 Post June 1st Trade:
  • Dead Cap: $4.7 million                                                                     Dead Cap: $4.7 million
  • Savings: $14 million                                                                           Savings: $15 million

With Fowler’s trade value lower than ever, finding a partner would probably require giving up draft picks. Cutting him post-June 1st saves Atlanta $8 million, but let’s play devil’s advocate and look at the flip side. If the team were to part ways with the former Gator, there would be a need for another edge rusher — a position already desperate for bodies.

The new general manager would have to address the vacancy in the draft or free agency. If Fontenot is to be the man, look for his answer to be in free agency — where his expertise lies. But we can look at both mediums.

The 2021 edge class doesn’t have a top-five talent like it has in years past, but Gregory Rousseau and Kwity Paye are two that show promise. Neither would warrant the Falcons’ 4th pick, but they could both be in play if the team decided to trade back. However, it isn’t fair to expect either of them to record nine sacks in their rookie year, which was expected of Fowler. And though they might have brighter futures, neither is as acclimated to the NFL’s level of offensive linemen. Fowler has a better chance of making an immediate impact next year than either of the aforementioned 2021 prospects.

The other medium would be free agency, and this is where things get interesting. If Terry Fontenot is, in fact, named general manager, his ability to find talent on other NFL rosters not properly utilized is second-to-none. He could be able to sign some talented edge rusher buried on a depth chart to a cheap deal. Cutting Fowler post-June 1st would then save the team $8 million. If you were to allocate all the savings to a pass-rusher in free agency, you would be looking in the price range of a Solomon ThomasTrent MurphyAlex Okafor, or Denico Autry.

Maybe someone like that could come in and give the Falcons more than the three sacks that Fowler contributed, and this is exactly the space that Fontenot strives in. But I think the more likely option is Fowler stays in Atlanta for 2021. There were rumors of him battling injury this past season, and the free agents the Falcons would be able to purchase with the $8 million they save are not very inspiring. If Fontenot thinks Fowler has a decent season left him, it makes since financially for him to stick around in 2021. 

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  1. Pingback: Atlanta Falcons would love J.J. Watt. They will get Dante Fowler Jr. - Mighty Tech

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