It’s a tough decision to make. The Jacksonville Jaguars have decided not to pick up the fifth-year option on the rookie contract of defensive end Dante Fowler, Jr., but it does not mean the team wants to part ways with the former third overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft.
Had the team made the decision to pick up Fowler’s option, the Jaguars would have been on the hook for $14.2 million. That’s a steep price to pay for a player who is not considered a starter.
In a statement issued by the Jaguars, Executive Vice President of Football Operations Tom Coughlin outlined why the team made the decision.
“We do like Dante and we feel that he’s on the verge of having a great season, but we did not pick up the fifth-year option at this time,” Jaguars Executive Vice President of Football Operations Tom Coughlin said in a statement Wednesday. “He is making good progress and we like how he practices and how he plays, as he did in the AFC Championship game, and we want him to have a great season and earn a new long-term contract with us this year.”
While Dante Fowler, Jr. is still under his rookie deal for the 2018 season, he and his agent can negotiate a long-term deal. Fowler, who played his college ball at the University of Florida, is set to become a free agent following the 2018 season.
Under the guidelines of the NFL, all first-round draft picks sign a four-year deal where the franchise they are with has an option of picking up the fifth year of the deal. The Jaguars Blake Bortles fifth-year option prior to last season. Bortles was the team’s 2014 first-round draft pick.
Luke Joeckel, the team’s first pick in 2013, had his fifth-year option declined amid injuries and poor play throughout his career. Joeckel was released last season and signed with the Seattle Seahawks.
Per Jaguars.com, Dante Fowler, Jr. missed his rookie season after sustaining a torn anterior cruciate ligament in rookie minicamp shortly after the ’15 draft. He registered four sacks in 2016 and eight last regular season. He was dominant in the AFC Championship game, registering two sacks against the New England Patriots.