Where will Fowler Jr. play next?
By: Jake Rajala
The Atlanta Falcons released Dante Fowler Jr. and it’s clear that Fowler Jr. has had a disappointing career after being selected third overall in the 2015 NFL draft. The former Top 3 draft pick had a career season in 2019 as a Los Angeles Ram, as he recorded 11.5 sacks. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to reclaim stardom in 2020 (3 sacks) or 2021 (4.5 sacks).
Fowler Jr. didn’t live up to his three year, $45 million dollar contract, but the Falcons are also striving to open up lots of cap space. They hold a talented quarterback in Matt Ryan who will be the NFL’s highest paid player this offseason. The Falcons could decide to free up cap space, restructure Ryan’s deal, and be contempt with keeping him.
The next chapter of Fowler’s journey won’t be on the Falcons, nonetheless. The 27 year old will be on the search for a new home. Fowler Jr. may be we wise to chase a prove it deal with a talented team. With that said, what are the top landing spots for Fowler Jr.? Well, here are a few teams that would make a ton of sense to ink the former Falcon.
Kansas City Chiefs
The Kansas City Chiefs and AFC West champions need more juice from their pass rush. Melvin Ingram (1 sack in 2021) is not the partner in crime Chris Jones deserves. The soon to be 33-year-old edge rusher is also facing free agency in 2022. The Chiefs will likely not have the money to strike big on Von Miller or Chandler Jones (20th in cap space), but they could have a great value player in the former Top 3 draft pick.
Fowler Jr. would have plenty of opportunities to chase QBs that are forced to match points with Patrick Mahomes. He would also have a lot of opportunities playing next to Chris Jones and it’s safe to say that Fowler played at his best next to the elite Aaron Donald in LA.
The Indianapolis Colts defensive coordinator Gus Bradley was Dante Fowler Jr.’s coach in Jacksonville, so he has strong familiarity and interest in the FA edge rusher. Bradley could really use pass rush help on his team that ranked 26th in sacks last season and 17th in passing YPG allowed. DeForest Buckner (7 sacks in 2021) needs more explosion next to him.
The Colts could look at pass rush help next to Kwity Paye (four sacks in 2021) and Al-Quadin Muhammed (six sacks in 2021) this offseason. The Colts are also seventh in cap space, so they could really afford to take a sharp look at Fowler Jr. and other free agents of interest.
Los Angeles Rams
The LA Rams could call their ex-pass rusher and see if he wants to return to Sean McVay’s lab and chase another Super Bowl trophy. Fowler Jr. could return to the dreamy city and really aim to build off an impressive Rams tenure. The Rams could lose free agent Von Miller (two sacks in Super Bowl LVI/115.5 career sacks) this offseason. It would seem like a smart fit for Fowler Jr. to fill in the shoes of Miller and return to wrecking havoc next to Aaron Donald.
The Rams present a strong destination to Fowler due to the familiarity aspect, fit, and winning attitude that attracts any professional football player.
New Orleans Saints
The Saints are honestly in cap hell, but I love the idea of Fowler Jr. playing in New Orleans. They have Tonah Kpassagnon behind Cameron Jordan and Marcus Davenport, but I believe the ceiling of Fowler Jr. is too tempting for Mickey Loomis to overlook.
The insanely talented and injury prone Davenport will be a pricey free agent in 2023 and the regular Pro Bowl Jordan will be 33 years old this offseason. They lost Trey Hendrickson to the Cincinnati Bengals in 2021, so the three headed monster broke up. Fowler Jr. wouldn’t only help the Saints create a lethal pass rushing combination, but he could very likely be a long term starter in New Orleans. If Fowler Jr. has a modest season, they could elect to not bring back Davenport in 2023, or cut ties with Jordan in 2023. In reality, the cap-strapped Saints will have to get creative with free agent targets this offseason. Fowler Jr. could be a fantastic addition, as they look to win a Super Bowl with their many stars in their prime together.
Las Vegas Raiders
The Las Vegas Raiders were sixth in passing YPG in 2021, but 21st in sacks last season. They need more help with from Mad Max (Maxx Crosby) and Yannick Ngakoue. Crosby and Ngakoue are also free agents in 2023. It would seem unlikely that they can afford both pass rushers will should likely demand monster deals. They could be excited about the possibility of adding a talented and highly motivated Fowler Jr. on a short term deal. It would be a lower risk and cheaper acquisition from Josh McDaniel’s view.
The Raiders play Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert four in four matchups a season for a long time. They could have Fowler Jr. helping their pass rush get more takedowns on the young quarterbacks if he turns around his performance in 2022.
The 2021 Defensive Player of The Year T.J. Watt showed that even he needs more help to slow down Patrick Mahomes in the playoffs. The Steelers got poured on by Mahomes in both matchups this past season. The KC Chiefs beat the Steelers 36-10 in their first regular season matchup and then continued their dominance in the second battle royal, as they won 42-21 in the wildcard weekend.
The Steelers are ranked 10th in cap space (roughly $31 million), so they can get creative with targeting a much needed QB and pass rush help opposite Watt. If they don’t bring back JuJu Smith Schuster, they could especially target a defender in the front seven. Fowler Jr. would have to be mouth watering at the idea of playing across from Watt and Cameron Heyward on the inside. The Steelers won’t be an ideal landing spot for some of top free agents at pass rusher or any position, but they could benefit from talent profiles on prove it deals.