Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots are in a position to add some more talent on the defensive side of the ball, as Matt Judon will need one more edge rusher that can help this unit become one of the unquestioned best units in the league. Could Dante Fowler Jr. fill that role in free agency?
Fowler spent the last two years with the Atlanta Falcons, as both Dan Quinn and new defensive coordinator Dean Pees thought that he could’ve been skilled enough to lead the pass rush for a team trying to make noise in the NFC South. It’s easy to see why given his player profile.
Originally a disappointing player after being picked third overall in 2015 by the Jaguars, Fowler parlayed an 11.5-sack season into a three-year contract with the Falcons. However, after just two seasons, Atlanta is done. They’ve released Fowler.
Any team that wants to sign Fowler must do so with the expectation that they can figure out what made him so dominant with the Rams. If Belichick is confident he can get Fowler back on track, adding him on a one-year or two-year deal could hold some appeal for the Patriots.
Will the New England Patriots sign Dante Fowler Jr. for 2022?
Fowler was able to line up as an outside linebacker in a Wade Phillips defense that ran a ton of 3-4. Having someone like Aaron Donald to take some of the attention away helps as well. While Judon is nowhere even close to that level of defensive star, defenses won’t focus on Fowler like they did in Atlanta.
At 255 pounds, Fowler still has very impressive speed for his size. If Belichick deploys more of those big nickel 2-4-5 formations that have started to crop up in his gameplan, having Fowler as a stand up rush linebacker might help him turn back the clock to his days in LA.
Fowler’s second-best season was when he recorded eight sacks on a Jaguars team that was so talented that they almost dragged Blake Bortles to the Super Bowl. When he doesn’t have to be the focal point of the defense, he can be a very productive player.
Even if that one season in Los Angeles was an outlier, Fowler is likely a more productive pass rusher than his sack totals would indicate. If Josh Uche is not going to make that third-year leap or starts moving into the Dont’a Hightower hybrid role, adding Fowler to the starting lineup alongside Judon could be a worthwhile (and cheap) move.