The Jaguars have done pretty well in the draft in recent years, but the jury is still out on the third overall pick from three years ago. And so the Jaguars admit they’ve yet to decide whether to pick up the fifth-year option on defensive end Dante Fowler‘s contract.
At a Friday pre-draft press conference, Jaguars G.M. Dave Caldwell said that the team has not yet made that decision, adding that they still have until early May to exercise the option. The option would trigger a $14.2 million salary for 2019, guaranteed for injury until the first day of the next league year, when it would become fully guaranteed.
As noted by Philip Heilman of the Florida Times-Union, the final decision may hinge on whether the Jaguars secure an edge rusher in the draft. Even if they don’t, the Jaguars may be unwilling to roll the dice on potentially owing Fowler $14.2 million if he suffers an injury at some point this year that keeps him from passing a physical before next March.
“I thought he had a nice year [in 2017],” Caldwell said regarding Fowler. “He’s 23 years old, only in his second year full-time playing. He made great strides; not only on the field but off the field, too.
Fowler tore an ACL during rookie minicamp in 2015, only days after he was picked. He had four sacks in 2016 and eight in 2017. He has appeared in 32 games over the past two seasons, but he has only one career start. In his most recent performance, the AFC title game against the Patriots, Fowler had a pair of sacks.
Fowler also faces discipline from the league after pleading no contest to charges of battery, criminal mischief, and petty theft. The incident arose when a man criticized Fowler’s driving. Fowler responded by hitting the man, knocking off his glasses, stepping on his glasses, and taking a bag of groceries the man was carrying and throwing the groceries into a lake. The fact that the charges were all misdemeanors helps Fowler avoid the baseline punishment of a six-game suspension; however, Fowler previously was arrested for assault against a police officer/EMT and resisting arrest without violence. Since the original focus of the Personal Conduct Policy was to address repeat offenders, Fowler’s status as a repeat offender could become a problem, when it’s time for the NFL to render a decision.
Ideally, the Jaguars would know whether and to what extent Fowler will be suspended before they have to make their decision. Unfortunately, the gears of the NFL’s justice system move at an unpredictable and erratic pace, with practical considerations (like this one) often ignored.