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NFL free agency 2019: Could Dante Fowler be a target for the Giants?

Edge rusher has talent, but hasn’t lived up to being No. 3 overall pick in 2015

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NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Los Angeles Rams
Dante Fowler pressures Nick Mullens of the 49ers.
Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Could Dante Fowler of the Los Angeles Rams be an option for the New York Giants if they are looking to free agency to add an edge player to their defense? Let’s take a closer look at Fowler.

The basics

Age: 25 in August
Experience: 3 (plus one season on IR)
2018 stats (two teams): 4.0 sacks, 30 tackles, 2 forced fumbles, 6 quarterback hits.
2019 cap hit: $1.926 million (fifth-year option declined)

Pro Football Focus: Overall grade (68.2) | Run (61.1) | Tackling (32.7) | Pass rush (69.7) | Coverage (66.5)

Fowler earned an above average grade (60.0-plus) for the first time in his four year career this season (68.2). The Florida alumnus saw an 80.0-plus grade just once this season (Week 1, 94.9), but he has complemented Ndamukong Suh and Aaron Donald nicely as a cheap, serviceable edge defender. Fowler has earned 29 quarterback pressures and four sacks in his 12 games played with the Rams, more than double any other Rams edge defender in that span. Although Fowler hasn’t quite lived up to his first-round pick potential, he is a young developing pass-rusher who has averaged seven sacks a season over his three healthy seasons.

The skinny

The Jacksonville Jaguars made Fowler the third overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, and he has never really come close to matching the expectations that come with being selected that high.

Fowler missed his entire rookie season after suffering a knee injury in his first practice with the Jaguars. He did have 8.0 sacks for Jacksonville in 2017, but was 35th among 62 qualifying edge rushers using PFF’s pass rush productivity metric.

This season, the Jaguars declined his fifth-year option, then traded him to the Rams at midseason for a 2019 third-round pick and a 2020 fifth-round selection. He had two sacks in eight games with Los Angeles, and his pass rush productivity score was 47th among 56 qualifying edge players.

When he joined the Rams, Fowler said this:

“I still definitely feel like I have a lot to prove,” Fowler said. “I have a big chip on my shoulder. I want to show that I’m not just an elite pass rusher, that I’m a full-time player, a four-down player.”

In December, SB Nation’s Rams website, Turf Show Times, seemed to be on the fence as to whether or not the team should keep Fowler beyond the 2018 season. Rams fans might feel more attached to Fowler now after he made a game-changing hit on New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees that led to an overtime interception in the NFC Championship Game.

Still, how much is a player like this worth? Would he be worth the risk for the Giants should they move on from Olivier Vernon?

There is talent there, and perhaps untapped potential. Still, the Jaguars never saw him as a starter. There were a pair of arrests, one leading to a one-game suspension that kept him off the field when Jacksonville opened the 2018 season against the Giants.

What do you think? Should the Giants be interested or not?