Rams set to re-sign pass rusher Dante Fowler Jr. to one-year deal

Ben WeinribYahoo Sports Contributor
Rams defensive end Dante Fowler will reportedly return to L.A. rather than hit free agency. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)
Rams defensive end Dante Fowler will reportedly return to L.A. rather than hit free agency. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)

The Los Angeles Rams have limited cap space for next season and several key players who could potentially leave. On Sunday, they reached an agreement with one such player, and it could shape the rest of their offseason.

The Rams and 24-year-old pass rusher Dante Fowler Jr. agreed to a new contract, the team announced, before he could potentially hit free agency later this week. According to a report from NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport, the deal is for one year.

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Fowler landed in Los Angeles at the trade deadline last year when the Rams shipped 2019 third- and fifth-round picks to the Jacksonville Jaguars. And while the former No. 3 overall pick has yet to fulfill his potential, he’s still a formidable force when healthy.

Fowler picked up just two sacks in his eight regular season games for the Rams, but he added 1.5 sacks, four tackles for loss and three quarterback hits in the playoffs.

Fowler has had more than his fair share of ups and downs during his brief career. He missed his entire rookie season with a torn ACL and only recorded 12 sacks in his first two seasons, causing the Jaguars to decline his fifth-year rookie option.

Still, he would have been a highly sought-after commodity as a free agent with most of the top pass rushers — DeMarcus Lawrence, Jadeveon Clowney, Dee Ford and Frank Clark — slapped with a franchise tag. To keep Fowler off the market, it likely will not come cheap.

How does this impact the Rams’ free agency?

Heading into the offseason, the Rams had about $28 million in cap space, according to Over The Cap, and plenty of big names ready to hit the market. Beyond Fowler, Los Angeles also has to contend with the potential losses of defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, safety Lamarcus Joyner, guard Rodger Saffold and linebacker Cory Littleton.

Signing Fowler likely means that they will have to let Suh go, especially considering how unlikely it is that the five-time Pro Bowler will be willing to return on the $14 million salary he took last year.

The Rams have already moved on from Joyner, who played last season under the franchise tag. On Friday they agreed to terms with six-time Pro Bowler Eric Weddle, who will make barely more over his two-year deal ($12.5 million) than Joyner made last season alone ($11.3 million).

Los Angeles will still have some money to spend but plenty of holes to fill, exacerbated by the fact that the team did not exercise center John Sullivan’s option earlier in the week. However, if last season is any indication, the Rams will aggressively make moves to win now before quarterback Jared Goff needs a $20+ million extension starting in 2020.

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