Falcons Edge Rusher Taking a Pay Cut: Report

Dante Fowler Jr

Tom Pennington/Getty Images Dak Prescott of the Dallas Cowboys under pressure from A.J. Terrell and Dante Fowler Jr. of the Atlanta Falcons on September 20, 2020.

Dante Fowler Jr. signed a three-year $48 million contract with the Atlanta Falcons last spring, but he won’t be earning as much in 2021 as he expected.

According to Jeff Schultz of The Athletic, Fowler has agreed to a pay reduction, which will reduce his salary cap hit for 2021, which was originally scheduled to be $18.541 million.

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The amount of the pay cut has not yet been revealed, but according to overthecap.com, Fowler was scheduled to earn $13 million in salary this year (with $6 million guaranteed and then another $7 million guaranteed on the fifth day of the 2021 league year). He also has $1 million in salary per year tied to workout attendance and another $1 million tied to per-game bonuses.

Dante Fowler Had a Career-Worst Year in 2020

When Fowler signed with the Falcons (from the Los Angeles Rams) he was coming off a year in which he had 58 tackles (40 solo), plus a career high 11.5 sacks, with 16 tackles for loss and 16 quarterback hits, not to mention six passes defensed and two forced fumbles.

But in his first year in Atlanta, he had the least impactful season of his career, registering just 23 tackles (12 solo), with three sacks, four tackles for loss, eight quarterback hits and one forced fumble. Obviously, that’s not what a coach and general manager are looking for from a player set to count more than $18 million against the cap.

That said, getting Fowler to take a pay cut is probably the best option for all parties.

Salary Cap Implications

Cutting him before June 1 would have saved the Falcons only $3,208,332 and would have triggered a $15,333,334 dead cap hit. A post-June 1 designation would save $7,875,000 but still leave $10,666,666 in dead money. A restructure didn’t make sense either, especially with the recent restructure of Matt Ryan’s contract, which reduced the quarterback’s 2021 cap number to $26.9 million but balloons his 2022 cap figure to $48.66 million. Basically, the Falcons don’t want to be pushing more liabilities into the future, especially those tied to a player like Fowler, who they may want to part ways with at the end of the 2021 season.

Meanwhile, the hope is that new defensive coordinator Dean Pees can get more production out of the former University of Florida product, who was selected No. 3 overall in the 2015 NFL Draft by the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Over the course of his six-year career Fowler has started 34 of 77 games and has recorded 164 total tackles (116 solo). He has also registered 30.5 sacks, 38 tackles for loss, 51 quarterback hits, 13 passes defensed, seven forced fumbles and six fumble recoveries. He spent his first season with the Jaguars on injured reserve. In October 2018 the Jaguars traded Fowler to the Rams for conditional third- and fifth-round draft choices. In July 2018, Fowler was suspended by the NFL for one game for violating the league’s personal conduct policy.

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