Credit the job that VP of Football Tom Coughlin and GM Dave Caldwell have done in Jacksonville, as almost all of the moves they have made, since Coughlin came back to the organization in January 2017, have been the smart ones.
Whether it was hiring Doug Marrone full time, signing Calais Campbell in free agency, drafting Leonard Fournette and so on, they have made the right move, repeatedly.
So, when they surprisingly elected Wednesday to not pick up the fifth year option on defensive end Dante Fowler’s 2015 rookie contract, it makes us at F.F.I. wonder what’s really going on with their thought process?
The Jaguars took the unusual step of not only commenting later Wednesday on the “why” on their decision, but Coughlin took a direct approach to 2018:
— Tad Dickman (@TDickman89) May 2, 2018
First, after losing his rookie year to an ACL tear in his first rookie camp practice three years ago, Fowler came around last season in year three. He had a productive eight sacks, two forced fumbles, three recoveries including a TD return, and 21 other tackles on the season. This doubled his sack total of his second season (2016) and clearly, on a defense that looks young and stout for years to come, he appears to fit right in with them.
However, there is baggage in his background, including his 2017 off-season arrest for assault and battery last July at an apartment complex in St. Petersburg. Witnesses to that altercation say that Fowler became physical with a man who had yelled at him for recklessly speeding through the apartment complex’s parking lot. It’s then alleged that Fowler not only punched the individual, but stomped his glasses and then threw the man’s groceries, including wine bottles into a nearby retention pond.
Fowler spoke briefly about the incident in general terms at the beginning of training camp last year, apologizing for causing embarrassment to Jaguar organization. He said at that time that he had the backing of new football operations boss, Tom Coughlin and coach Doug Marrone.
Fowler eventually plead “no contest” in March on the three charges from the case and received a $1,000 fine and 75 hours of community service. He is still subject to NFL discipline possibly for the 2018 season.
He also had previous misdemeanor assault and resisting arrest charges from Miami Beach in 2016, that were also pled out without jail time.
As Ryan O’Halloran wrote for the Florida-Times Union Wednesday afternoon, Fowler is one of only six players’ who’s team did not pick up the fifth year rookie contract option for their player. And the Jaguars previously did not do this with former #1 pick offensive lineman Luke Joeckel in 2016. However, they did pick up the option for quarterback Blake Bortles last year.
That fifth year option for Fowler was for $14.2 million for the 2019 season. Fowler is scheduled to make $7.5 million in the final year of his deal with the Jaguars.
Both sides are obviously going to work for an extension, but, judging by that statement above, the team clear views 2018 as Fowler having to play for his next contract or not.
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