clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Rams push chips to the middle of the table with a trade for Dante Fowler Jr.

New, comments

Aaron Donald has 10 sacks, but the Rams needed an edge rusher to help round out the defense.

NFL: New York Jets at Jacksonville Jaguars Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Rams are already the best team in the NFL, but they apparently aren’t content with a roster that went 8-0 in the first half of the season. Instead, they added one more piece to the mix by trading to acquire pass rusher Dante Fowler Jr. from the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The Jaguars will get back a 2019 third-round pick and 2020 fifth-round pick for Fowler, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Fowler, 24, has 14 sacks in his two and half NFL seasons and joins a roster that has 22 sacks — eighth most in the NFL. He missed the beginning of the season due to a one-game suspension stemming from a 2017 arrest, and he was suspended by the Jaguars for a preseason game due to a fight in training camp.

But on the field, he has developed into a more consistent pass rusher. While he has just two sacks so far in 2018, he’s recorded 15 hurries, according to Pro Football Focus.

Why did the Rams make the trade?

It’s an exciting move for Los Angeles, but it’s not a simple case of the rich getting richer. There’s risk that comes when a team that’s 8-0 and doesn’t need to fix anything, gives up a pick to add another player. Especially one who sometimes caused problems off the field in Jacksonville.

But for as good as the Rams have been, they needed another edge rusher. Aaron Donald has accounted for 10 of the team’s sacks and no other player on the defense has more than three.

The trio of Donald, Ndamukong Suh, and Michael Brockers consistently smash pockets from the inside out, but the Rams would benefit from a player finishing those plays by rushing from the outside in. That’ll be Fowler’s role and it could end up meaning the sacks come in bunches for the former No. 3 overall pick.

So far in 2018, Fowler has sacked, hit, or hurried quarterbacks once every 8.3 times he rushes the passer. That’s 13th best in the NFL among players who have been on the field for at least 100 pass plays this year. Put that same level of productivity on a team with Donald and the Rams defense could be terrifying.

Why did the Jaguars make the trade?

On a team that’s absolutely loaded defensively, Fowler has started only one game in his career and that was during his rookie season in 2016.

The Jaguars defense hasn’t racked up sacks and turnovers like it did in 2017, but the leaders of the pass rush then and the leaders now are Calais Campbell and Yannick Ngakoue. They each have five sacks so far in 2018, and were the only two to crack double-digit sacks last season.

No team spends more on its defensive line than the Jaguars, and with big cap hits on the way for Campbell, Malik Jackson, and Marcell Dareus in 2019, tough choices were going to have to be made. The Jaguars can’t keep everyone and it seemed clear in May they decided Fowler wasn’t a part of the long-term picture when his fifth-year option wasn’t picked up.

The Jaguars’ pass defense — which is No. 1 in the NFL again in 2018 — is still going to be good without Fowler. And now they have a third- and fifth-round pick for a player who was eight games away from leaving in free agency anyway.