Duval might have its newest villain in Dante Fowler Jr.
Your Jacksonville Jaguars are in the media limelight this morning, and it’s not for the greatest of reasons. A practice skirmish between defensive ends Dante Fowler Jr. and Yannick Ngakoue has led to a team-imposed suspension for Fowler and star cornerback Jalen Ramsey, and it has also sparked a series of strong opinions from Jaguars fans and local beat alike.
Suspended for the 2018 season opener for an incident stemming from last summer, the franchise’s frustration with Fowler certainly seems to be manifesting with his recent sabbatical, leaving him at home while the team takes off to Minnesota for a week of joint practices before taking on the Vikings this Saturday. Some within the fan base are at their wit’s end with Fowler’s antics both on and off the field, and the sentiment seems to be echoing with the team’s no-nonsense regime.
Trade scenarios have been surfacing through social media regarding Fowler, but the only way this would be the right decision would be if the chasm within the locker room truly proves incorrigible – and we’ll never know that. If relationships can be salvaged, however, it would be better business for the Jaguars to hold on to Fowler for the 2018 season, and Jaguars fans should cheer for him with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind. Let me explain why.
The career of an NFL player is just as volatile as the stock market. While Fowler’s value was obviously worth a third overall pick in the view of at least one NFL decision maker, that assessment has since depreciated since draft night of 2015, and this timeline below is the reason why:
#Jaguars DE Dante Fowler Jr.’s career to date— Zach Goodall (@zach_goodall) August 13, 2018
-3rd overall pick
-Lost starting job week 2
-4 sacks as backup DE
-Arrested for simple battery
-8 sacks as backup DE
-1 gm. suspension for arrest
-1 wk. suspension for fighting
Fowler’s stock at the moment is currently at an all-time low. Between entering the final year of his contract, a forward-looking one-game suspension, a mysterious shoulder ailment that has sidelined him for almost all of camp, and this most recent on-field episode, Fowler is far from an attractive investment at the moment. While some teams may be inquiring to “buy low” on Fowler, the Jaguars should be patient, and the reason is compensatory draft picks.
Compensatory draft picks are awarded to NFL teams who allow free agents to walk in the offseason and don’t replace them with a free agent of relatively equal or greater value. For example, former Jaguars wide receiver Allen Robinson would have qualified for a high compensatory pick from this most recent offseason, however, doling out the healthiest guard contract at the time to Andrew Norwell cancels this out. The higher the average per year contract a player signs for their new teams, the better chance of earning a lofty round comp pick, which can be as high as a third rounder. For more insight into the compensatory pick formula, visit Over the Cap, a site that does a great job of tracking and forecasting comp picks.
As a result, Jags fans should be hoping for Fowler to have the best season of his career, because quite frankly, it’s a win-win situation. While better on-field performance this year means more production in a Super Bowl push, it also means it drives the bidding war in the offseason for a 24-year old edge rusher that’s on a career upswing. The bigger the contract Fowler signs in free agency, the more it factors into the comp pick formula. With the Jaguars entering the sunset of a traditionally overwhelming era of cap space, it’s time for the front office to stop spending big in free agency and start accruing forward-looking talent through the draft. It’s what good teams do.
Will Dante Fowler Jr. be a Jaguar after this season? It’s impossible to say. But whether or not he is, you should be rooting for Fowler to have the best season he’s ever had in a (sexy new) Jaguars uniform.