Dante Fowler Jr.

Contract Details: Joyner, Titans, Rams, Hart

Let’s take a look at the details of a few recently-signed contracts from around the NFL. Twitter links courtesy of Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network, unless otherwise noted.

Rams Re-Sign Dante Fowler Jr.

The Rams are re-signing outside linebacker Dante Fowler Jr., the team announced on Twitter. Fowler had been set to become a free agent.

Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed, but it’s safe to assume Fowler landed a significant sum. Ian Rapoport of NFL Network soon tweeted that it’s a one-year deal for Fowler. He had been set to be one of the top pass-rushers available in free agency, and the Rams locking him up will have a major ripple effect across the league. The Rams traded third and fifth round picks to the Jaguars for him at the trade deadline, and didn’t want to let him walk.

Free agency is set to open tomorrow, and one of the bigger names is now off the market. We heard last week that the Jets had been interested in Fowler. The third overall pick in 2015, he had his fifth-year option declined by Jacksonville last year, which made him a free agent now. It’s interesting that he accepted a one-year deal, as he had been rumored to be seeking a lengthier pact. He’ll now have the chance to prove himself in Los Angeles, and re-enter the market next year.

Fowler never quite lived up to his draft status, but is capable of being a productive pass-rusher. For his career, he has 16 sacks in 47 games. He was relatively quiet in the regular season with the Rams, but really turned it on in the playoffs. Fowler landed the hit on Drew Brees in the NFC Championship Game which forced an interception and sent the Rams to the Super Bowl. The Rams have been really aggressive the past couple of seasons, and they’ve been continuing that this offseason. Recently, they made a splash by signing safety Eric Weddle, as they look to make another Super Bowl run.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC Notes: Texans, Broncos, Jets, Bell

The Texans are expected to release cornerback Kevin Johnson, Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle writes. As previously reported, the Texans have discussed trading Johnson, but it’s much more likely that he’ll be cut given his contract (due $9.1MM in 2019) and recent concussion issues (played only one game in 2018). Still, releasing Johnson will leave the Texans extra thin at cornerback, so the position figures to be a priority for them in March and April.

Here’s more from the AFC:

  • The Broncos are expected to have interest in linebacker C.J. Mosley, according to Troy Renck of Denver7 (on Twitter). This week, we learned that the Ravens will not use the franchise tag on Mosley and the expectation is that he will be an unrestricted free agent later this month. Mosley, 27 in June, is a perennial Pro Bowler and anchored Baltimore’s linebacking corps for several years.
  • The Jets are expected to target second-tier running backs during free agency, according to Tony Pauline of DraftAnalyst.com, which signals that Le’Veon Bell is not the team’s focus. The Jets could theoretically sign Bell, Pauline hears, but only if they do not come away with a big-time pass rusher. Speaking of the pass rush, the Jets have been connected to Dante Fowler, but people at the combine told Pauline that contract length may be a sticking point for Gang Green. Fowler probably wants something in the four-year range while the Jets are hesitant about such a commitment.
  • The Dolphins haven’t told Minkah Fitzpatrick whether they want him to play safety or cornerback in 2019, but they want him to be a safety in the long run, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald hears. He could get a head start on the safety plan this year, but that will depend on what happens with incumbents T.J. McDonald and Reshad Jones. Right now, it seems unlikely that the Dolphins would move on from either safety. Cutting McDonald would save only $1.4MM versus $4.6MM in dead money. Meanwhile, Jones is already guaranteed $11MM for 2019.

Jets Interested In Fowler, Ansah

The Jets’ need for pass rushing help has been well documented and they’re already targeting some of this year’s biggest available names. Gang Green is showing interest in Dante Fowler (Rams), Ezekiel Ansah (Lions), and Preston Smith (Redskins), according to ESPN.com’s Rich Cimini (on Twitter). 

This year’s crop, at first glance, is positively loaded with impactful edge rushers. However, top flight guys like Demarcus Lawrence (Cowboys), Jadeveon Clowney (Texans), Frank Clark (Seahawks), and Dee Ford (Chiefs) are expected to receive tags or sign long-term deals with their respective clubs. That may leave the Jets to sift through some lower tier options, though Fowler, Ansah, and Smith all have upside.

Fowler, a former No. 3 overall pick, didn’t do a ton during the regular season, but he made a dent in the Rams’ first two playoff games. Ansah was limited to just seven games in 2018, but his history (14.5 sacks in 2015; 12.0 sacks in 2017) shows that he’s capable of much more when healthy. Smith, who had only four sacks last year, has amassed eight sacks in two of his four pro seasons and graded out as Pro Football Focus’ eighth-best 3-4 outside linebacker in the league in 2018.

With $102MM+ to burn, the Jets should be able to sign at least a couple of impact edge rushers in March.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Trade Candidates, Jets, Raiders

With the Super Bowl just one week away, free agency is fast approaching. It should be a busy March and in addition to the free agency frenzy, there could be an active trade market this Spring. A potential Antonio Brown trade has dominated headlines, but there a bunch of other high profile guys who could be moved. With that in mind, former NFL agent and current CBS Sports analyst Joel Corry recently took a look at the top ten trade candidates for this offseason.

The whole piece is worth a read, as it’s always great to get an agent’s perspective on these matters. Among the big names that Corry lists as trade possibilities are Joe Flacco, Brown, and Eli Manning. Blockbuster trades didn’t used to be too common in the NFL, but teams have slowly been coming around to making bigger deals the past few years. Odds are there will be at least a couple of splash trades before training camp rolls around.

Here’s more from around the league:

  • The Jets desperately need pass-rush help, and they “almost certainly will be interested” in Rams defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. when free agency starts, according to Ralph Vacchiano of SNY. Vacchiano writes that the Jets “tried several times to trade for him” from the Jaguars before they ultimately dealt him to Los Angeles. Fowler, an impending free agent, wasn’t great in the regular season, but he’s come alive in the playoffs with 1.5 sacks and three quarterback hits through two playoff games. Vacchiano’s piece also highlights Patriots defensive end Trey Flowers as a potential target for the Jets, as he writes that New England isn’t “likely to pay him” this offseason.
  • Speaking of teams looking for pass-rush help, the Raiders are in a similar boat. New Raiders GM Mike Mayock didn’t try to hide the fact that the team is looking for some help on the outside of their defensive line this week at the Senior Bowl, telling reporters “are we focused in on defensive ends at [the Senior Bowl]? Of course”, according to Scott Bair of NBC Sports, adding “we’d be dumb if we weren’t”. The Raiders had only 13 sacks as a team this past year, by far the fewest of any team in the league. In fact the second worse total was 30, more than twice as many as Oakland had, so it wouldn’t be at all surprising if they go with a pass-rusher at number four overall in this April’s draft.
  • In case you missed it, Cowboys star pass-rusher Demarcus Lawrence is set to undergo shoulder surgery.

Failed Trades: Beasley, Fowler, Jets, Jags

After the trade deadline passes each year, there are inevitably reports about the trades that were discussed but never consummated. For instance, Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network reports that teams were trying to trade for Falcons pass rusher Vic Beasley (video link). Beasley has just one sack this year, and he has regressed considerably since his First Team All-Pro performance in 2016, but Atlanta believes it can make the playoffs this season, and it was not prepared to move a foundational piece like Beasley, who is under contract through 2019 via the fifth-year option.

Now for more reports concerning trades that never happened, which nonetheless shed some light on the teams that declined to make the deals, the clubs that tried to make the deals, and the players themselves:

  • The Jets, desperate for pass rushing help, inquired on former Jaguars defensive end Dante Fowler over the summer, and they tried again at last week’s trade deadline, as Adam Schefter of ESPN.com details. The Rams ultimately acquired Fowler in exchange for a 2019 third-rounder and 2020 fifth-rounder, and while the Jets submitted a similar offer about a half hour before the 4pm deadline on October 30, they also wanted a fourth-rounder to come back to them. As such, Jacksonville pulled the trigger on the Rams’ offer.
  • Interestingly, before dealing him to the Saints in August, the Jets offered quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to the Jaguars in a one-for-one swap for Fowler, per Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports. Jacksonville rebuffed that proposal, even though it knew that Fowler was probably on the way out, and given their QB struggles, that decision may have made a major difference in the Jags’ season.
  • Fowler may not have been the Rams‘ first choice for pass rushing help. We already knew that Los Angeles had made a significant offer for Khalil Mack before he was dealt to the Bears, but Schefter writes that the Rams also called the Texans to discuss Jadeveon Clowney in the first weeks of the season, and as late as last week, they made a push to acquire the BillsJerry Hughes.
  • Several teams, including the Eagles, called the Jets in an effort to acquire deep threat Robby Anderson, per ESPN’s Chris Mortensen (Twitter link). However, Gang Green opted to hold on to Anderson because the development of Sam Darnold remains the team’s top priority, and it did not want to remove one of Darnold’s biggest weapons.

South Notes: Bucs, Colts, Vinatieri, Jaguars

Although the Buccaneers ultimately stood pat prior to Tuesday’s trade deadline, they did inquire on available cornerbacks, tweets Jenna Laine of ESPN.com. Only one cornerback — former Giant/current Saint Eli Apple — was traded near the deadline, but others, including Janoris Jenkins (Giants), Chris Harris and Bradley Roby (Broncos), and Gareon Conley (Raiders), were thought to be available. Tampa Bay has already lost corners Vernon Hargreaves and Marcus Williams for the season, and are currently fielding the NFL’s worst pass defense by DVOA, so adding help in the back end was certainly a priority. The Buccaneers reportedly also targeted Giants safety Landon Collins but weren’t able to come to an agreement with New York.

Here’s more from the NFL’s two South divisions:

  • Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri, now the NFL’s all-time scoring leader, has no interest in playing for any team besides Indianapolis, according to Mike Chappell of FOX59 (Twitter link). Although he’s now 45 years old, Vinatieri intends to play beyond the 2018 campaign, and the Colts would have interest in re-signing him if he keeps producing at his current level. As Chappell notes, Vinatieri and his family have settled in Indianapolis — he’s now been with the Colts for longer than he played for the Patriots — and the Colts should be contenders in 2019. Vinatieri, who signed a one-year, $3.625MM deal in the spring, has converted 14-of-16 field goals and 21-of-23 extra points this season.
  • Both the Jaguars and the Rams believed that moving Dante Fowler out of his home state of Florida would be beneficial to the young pass rusher, as Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com writes. Fowler, who was traded to Los Angeles on Tuesday, played collegiately at the University of Florida, and there’s a feeling that relocating — be it to California or anywhere that is not Florida — will be a positive. Additionally, Jacksonville has several looming defensive extensions on the horizon, including deals for stars Jalen Ramsey and Yannick Ngakoue, so keeping Fowler around wasn’t a must. Plus, as Breer details, Fowler wasn’t exactly a key cog on the Jaguars’ defense, as he’d played on only 32% of the club’s defensive snaps to this point.
  • In case you missed it, Saints defensive end Marcus Davenport — whom New Orleans traded up to select in the first round of this year’s draft — is expected to miss a month or so after suffering a toe injury. Here’s how the Saints intend to replace the rookie pass rusher.

Deadline Notes: DT, Fowler, Collins, Bell

There were five trades made on deadline day, but none of them involved Giants safety Landon Collins. Appearing on ESPN’s The Michael Kay Show, the 24-year-old said New York was “asking a little bit too much,” leading to suitors shying away from a deal.

Ralph Vacchiano of SNY writes that the Giants were ultimately seeking a 2019 second-rounder and a late-round pick in 2020, but no team offered more than a third. The Chiefs and Buccaneers were among the teams to have made bids for the defensive back.

Considering all of the rumors surrounding the Giants, Collins admitted that he was a bit on edge up until the deadline.

“Yeah I was very anxious honestly,” Collins said (via Vacchiano). “I heard multiple teams offered a lot. It’s crazy. My agent called me and I looked at my phone and thought ‘Oh God.’”

Below are some more deadline notes from around the NFL…

  • Before the Broncos traded wideout Demaryius Thomas to the Texans, both the Patriots and Eagles made competitive offers for the veteran, reports Mike Klis 9News in Denver (via Twitter). The Titans also made a late bid for the receiver. Denver ultimately sent Thomas and a seventh-round pick to Houston for a fourth-round pick and a seventh-round pick. New England had previously been connected to the 30-year-old. Philly ended up making a trade with the Lions for wideout Golden Tate, another wideout the Patriots were eyeing.
  • The 2019 third-round pick sent to the Jaguars in the Dante Fowler trade is conditional, tweets Howard Balzer. NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero tweets that the conditional draft pick will be based on how many compensatory picks the Rams receive. If Los Angeles does receive a compensatory pick, that will be sent to Jacksonville. If the Rams receive more than one compensatory pick, the Jaguars will receive the higher selection. If the Rams don’t get any compensatory picks, then they’ll simply send their own pick to complete the trade. Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com tweets that Los Angeles is expecting compensatory picks for the offseason losses of Trumaine Johnson and Sammy Watkins. Jacksonville also received a 2020 fifth-rounder in the Fowler deal.
  • As ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler points out (via Twitter), the Steelers unwillingness to trade Le’Veon Bell means the running back will now have two weeks to report to the team. If the Pro Bowler fails to show up by November 13th, he won’t be allowed to play this season. Fowler notes that Bell is still intending on playing this season, but he still hasn’t informed the Steelers of his plans.
  • The Ravens traditionally don’t trade draft picks for players, especially during the season. As Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic writes, prior to today, the team had only made one significant pre-deadline deal (for left tackle Eugene Monroe in 2013). However, today’s trade for Ty Montgomery followed general manager Ozzie Newsome‘s “right player, right price” attitude. Baltimore ended up sending the Packers a seventh-rounder for a versatile offensive weapon who had more than 800 all-purpose yards only two seasons ago. While the 25-year-old may not be as flashy of a name as LeSean McCoy or Jordan Howard, Zrebiec believes the Ravens gave up minor draft capital for a player who could end up helping them down the stretch.

Jaguars Trade DE Dante Fowler To Rams

The rich get richer. On Tuesday, the Jaguars agreed to trade defensive end Dante Fowler to the Rams, as Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. In exchange, the Rams will send a 2019 third-round pick and a 2020 fifth-round pick to the Jaguars, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets

After investing heavily in their defensive line this offseason, the Rams certainly didn’t have to make this move. However, the aggressive front office in L.A. was unwilling to sit idly by and watch a former Top 5 draft pick go elsewhere.

The Jaguars fielded several calls on Fowler leading up to the deadline and the Rams apparently came to the table with the best offer of the bunch.

Fowler will offer edge rush support for a front seven that already features the likes of Aaron Donald, Ndamukong Suh, Michael Brockers, and Ethan Westbrooks. In limited playing time this year, Fowler notched two sacks and has played better than ever before, according to the advanced metrics at Pro Football Focus.

Fowler is in the final year of his rookie contract and the Rams have little breathing room under the cap, so it will be tough for the Rams to keep him beyond the 2018 season. In light of that, the price tag of a third-round pick and a fifth-round pick may seem steep, but it’s important to note that the Rams have plenty of draft ammo thanks to previous trades and compensatory picks.

With a disappointing 3-5 record, the Jaguars clearly recognize that their playoff hopes are dwindling. The Fowler trade does not mean they’re waving the white flag, per se, but it’s a signal that they are keeping an eye on their prospects for 2019.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Jaguars DE Dante Fowler Drawing Interest

The Jaguars’ phones have been ringing with serious interest in defensive end Dante Fowler Jr., sources tell Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (on Twitter). The asking price is high, but Pelissero says Fowler is a player to watch as a teams look for pass rush help. 

Fowler, the former No. 3 overall pick in the NFL draft, has immense talent, but also comes with baggage. The pass rusher has a history of off-the-field missteps and was sidelined for the first game of the season for racking up three misdemeanor charges in a 2017 arrest. Fowler was also hit with an unusual preseason suspension this year for “fighting and violation of team rules.”

On the field, Fowler has been an effective reserve, notching two tackles in seven games. As far as Pro Football Focus is concerned, he’s in the midst of his best season to date. Fowler currently ranks as the league’s No. 34 ranked edge defender, though his sample size of 165 snaps pales in comparison to many others on the list.

Last year, Fowler recorded a career-high eight sacks, but the club declined his fifth-year option for 2019. Still, even as they declined the option, it was reported that the Jaguars had not ruled out a long-term deal with Fowler down the road, so they’re not likely to give him away for cheap today. It’s also worth noting that the Jaguars could get a compensatory pick for Fowler if he leaves in free agency.

The Jets, who are in desperate need of pass rush help, inquired on Fowler over the summer.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.