JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - For most top draft picks, getting their fifth-year option picked up is a matter of when not if. The Jaguars have decided to not pick up the option for defensive end Dante Fowler Jr.
The former Florida Gator would've been guaranteed $14.2 million for the 2019 season as long as he was on the roster at the start of the league year in March.
Fowler will spend the 2018 season in Jacksonville and the team still has the option of signing him to a long term deal.
“We do like Dante and we feel that he’s on the verge of having a great season, but we did not pick up the fifth-year option at this time," said Jaguars from EVP of Football Operations Tom Coughlin. "He is making good progress and we like how he practices and how he plays, as he did in the AFC Championship game, and we want him to have a great season and earn a new long-term contract with us this year.”
Expectations were high for the No. 3 overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. Fowler missed the entire 2015 season after he tore his ACL on the first day of rookie mini-camp with the Jaguars. In his first full season in 2016, Fowler had four sacks and last year he had eight in the regular season and two more in the playoffs.
Fowler was able to generate those numbers in a reserve role. At the moment he is behind two Pro Bowler’s in Calais Campbell and Yannick Ngakoue on the depth chart. That’s part of what made this decision so difficult for the Jaguars’ front office. Fowler won’t be 24 until August and due to that age his best football should be in front of him.
Complicating matters even more is Jacksonville is running into the same situation that Seattle faced with their Super Bowl caliber defense. There’s simply not enough money to go around for everybody.
The Jaguars have the best and one of the most expensive defensive lines in the NFL. In 2019 Campbell, Malik Jackson and Marcell Dareus have cap hits of $17,500,000, $15,000,000 and $10,175,000 respectively. Although it may have come as a surprise to some this is why the Jaguars selected Taven Bryan No. 29 overall in last weeks NFL Draft. They want to have a cheaper option in place for if they decide to move on from Campbell, Jackson or Dareus after this season.
Also keep in mind that the Jaguars will have to make sure they have room to sign Ngakoue cornerback Jalen Ramsey and linebacker Myles Jack to long term deals as well.
Injuries and or drop in production to any of the above would obviously have a huge factor into who stays and who goes. These are all factors that weighed into this decision on Fowler.
At the moment seven of the top 10 picks in the 2015 NFL Draft have had their fifth year options picked up.
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