Jaguars have a tough call to make on Dante Fowler

Jacksonville Jaguars

Dante Fowler’s future with the Jaguars is in jeopardy.

The Jacksonville Jaguars had high expectations for Dante Fowler Jr. when they took him with the No. 3 selection in the 2015 NFL Draft. Unfortunately, his performance in the NFL has been a disappointment. Now the Jags are faced with a tough decision on whether or not to pick up Fowler’s fifth-year option.

For most top draft picks, getting their fifth-year options picked up is a mere formality. The intention of the CBA provision is to give teams the ability to control their young talent for an extra season. The Jaguars have to decide whether or not the year of extra control is worth the $14.2 million they’d have to guarantee Fowler for the 2019 season.

Fowler is blessed with tantalizing talent. He’s flashed excellent pass rush ability at times during his career. Last season also happened to be his most productive year with the Jaguars. Eight sacks doesn’t represent massive production but it does give fans an inkling of just what Fowler is capable of producing.

Unfortunately for the former Florida star, he’s been surpassed by another young defensive end. Yannick Ngakouu has entrenched himself as the starter at the left defensive end spot Fowler covets. The hulking mass that is Calais Campbell anchors the right defensive end spot. That leaves Fowler positioned as the team’s third defensive end. He still gets a fair amount of playing time, but it’s unlikely he’ll become a starter anytime soon.

That’s why the smart money is on the Jaguars opting not to exercise Fowler’s option. The price tag is just too high for a reserve defensive end. Perhaps if Fowler were producing double-digit sacks, things would be different. His current level of production leaves him just short of the quality needed to justify that type of money.

Of course, failing to exercise his fifth-year option doesn’t mean Fowler has no future in Jacksonville. The team could always try to reach a more economical extension with him when his current rookie deal is up. Fowler might find better offers on the open market, but Jacksonville does represent a decent situation for him. He’s an excellent fit for the way the Jags like to rush the passer. Playing as more of a pass-rushing specialist might also help mask Fowler’s difficulties stopping the run.

It’s not impossible that Jacksonville will lock Fowler down with a fifth guaranteed year, but it’s pretty unlikely. One start and eight sacks in three years just wasn’t what Jacksonville had in mind when they drafted him.

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