Is it time for the LA Rams to reunite with OLB Dante Fowler Jr?
Even Steven. Someone who loses one thing, but gains something of equal value. That could be what the LA Rams turn into in the 2022 NFL season. After all, the team wants to bring everyone back. The players want to stick together. But oh, the players on expired contracts want to be paid too. Something is going to come up short, someone is not going to get paid, someone will not return.
Of course, after the resurgence to his season, veteran outside linebacker Von Miller could simply have outplayed what the LA Rams front office can afford to pay him. And that may mean focusing upon a Plan B. Now, that problem is pretty straightforward. Von Miller wants to be paid and has the opportunity to end up with whatever team he chooses. While many believed that he would return to the Rams next year, that is no longer as certain.
In fact, the LA Rams face losing both Von Miller and Ogbonnia Okoronkwo in free agency due to expiring contracts. The team loved Miller’s presence on the defense because he was a savvy veteran who could get to the quarterback. But most of all, he was the type of player who showed up huge for the team in the playoffs.
After Leonard Floyd, the team is overflowing with young talent on the edge. Ideally, the Rams would benefit most in an alternative scenario to sign a veteran free agent outside linebacker who could deliver a big impact for the Rams and cost next to nothing. Right now, former Rams outside linebacker Dante Fowler Jr. is a free agent, and based on his two years with the Atlanta Falcons, his market price is most certainly depressed.
Of course, Fowler is no Von Miller. But he does have a number of almost can’t miss characteristics. First of all, he was released by the Falcons, so he will not trigger any offsets to calculate awarded compensatory draft picks. Next up, he is a known and proven contributor for the LA Rams defense. Much like the surprisingly effective return of safety Eric Weddle, Fowler had a monster season for the Rams in 2019. Now that he’s experienced how the NFL works elsewhere, he could return to the Rams organization with a renewed appreciation and determination.
Some players simply ‘fit’ the culture of an organization, and it is clear that Fowler flourished in the LA Rams defense. Of course, it helps that Fowler was getting one on one blocking, but he was certainly good for getting to the quarterback when line up with Aaron Donald on his side.
Selling Raheem Morris
Of course, adding any player to the Rams defense will need to clear the approval of defensive coordinator Raheem Morris, and that may be tough to do. The Rams no longer have former defensive coordinator Wade Phillips nor linebacker coach Joe Barry to vouch for Fowler’s work ethic or production.
So the only opinion in the room right now would be Morris and his take on Dante Fowler Jr.’s first season with the Atlanta Falcons was anything but complimentary.
"“It just wasn’t good enough for the standard that he’s provided for himself or for the standard the Atlanta Falcons have for him,” Morris said. “Obviously, he wants to go out and be a disruptor every single time, he wants to get after the quarterback and he has not been able to do that enough this year whether it’s been COVID whether it has been an injury, whatever the case has been.A lot of things in this business you don’t have time for excuses for and he won’t be one of those guys to make excuses. We have to get him going, he’s a guy we have big plans for, and we’ll figure out where we can go next with him.” – Raheem Morris as interviewed by AtlantaFalcons.com reporter, Kelsey Conway"
When Fowler learned of Morris’ statement, he did not push back. Rather, he agreed.
So what was the problem? Fowler seemed to regress a bit in 2021 as well. Well, he did not come anywhere close to his LA Rams season.
Is this an opportunity to reclaim his ability to sack the quarterback? Although two years have passed, and many of the coaches and players have changed, this is still an LA Rams defense that features Aaron Donald. Could the Rams benefit from signing the guy to a team-friendly ‘prove it,’ deal? Perhaps, perhaps not. But in all honesty, the LA Rams are the best-positioned team in the NFL to find out if Fowler still has something left in his tank.