LB Dante Fowler Jr., Rams Agree to New 1-Year Contract Ahead of NFL Free Agency

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 11:  Dante Fowler #56 of the Los Angeles Rams celebrates his sack and fumble recovery in the fourth quarter during a 36-31 win over the Seattle Seahawks at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on November 11, 2018 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Rams re-signed free-agent linebacker Dante Fowler Jr., the team announced Sunday. The Rams didn't reveal the full details of the extension. 

NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported the agreement is for a one-year contract.

Although free agency doesn't begin until Wednesday, Los Angeles has already made a pair of big defensive splashes this offseason. The team agreed to a two-year, $10.5 million deal with veteran safety Eric Weddle, according to Rapoport.

The Rams acquired Fowler last October from the Jacksonville Jaguars, sending a 2019 third-round draft pick and a 2020 fifth-rounder to Jacksonville.

Fowler generally had a disappointing spell with the Jaguars, who selected him third overall in the 2015 draft. His play improved slightly in Los Angeles. He had 21 combined tackles and two sacks in eight appearances for the NFC champions.

Pro Football Focus' Michael Renner was a bit down on Fowler as a free-agent target, though:

"There are two big positives in Fowler's corner at this point: he was a top-five pick and is only 24 years old. They, unfortunately, don't include much in the way of on-field performance. If the Rams traded a third rounder for a half season of Fowler is any indication, he'll sign a fairly healthy deal this offseason. There's really nothing from his performance on the field that can justify that. He's yet to notch a pass-rushing grade of 70.0 for an entire season as he disappears for long stretches at a time."

Fowler staying with the Rams will have a ripple effect on the free-agent market.

While Fowler is sacrificing long-term security, signing a one-year deal is the best move for both him and the Rams.

Los Angeles gets to have him for a full season before potentially making a much bigger commitment next spring. If Fowler doesn't take a big step forward, then letting him walk might be the sensible idea.

Fowler, meanwhile, can play himself into a far bigger contract down the line. Even if he had turned down the Rams' offer to hit unrestricted free agency, it seems unlikely he would've had a wealth of massive deals on the table.

That the Jaguars declined his $14.2 million option for 2019 was a damning indictment as to how poorly things had gone to that point. 

Now, Fowler has the opportunity to prove himself as an elite pass-rusher in order to cash in when he's once again a free agent a year from now.

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