Dante Fowler Jr. spent just two seasons with the Atlanta Falcons. The front office brought the outside linebacker in with high expectations. Unfortunately, the move didn’t exactly pay off for either party. The team decided to part ways with Fowler despite having one year left on his contract.
Several teams will be searching the free-agent market for edge rushers, including the Baltimore Ravens. Baltimore’s defense took a significant step back in 2021. Getting younger up front could be a key to getting back on track heading into the 2022 season.
The 27-year-old linebacker should be on the Ravens’ radar in the offseason.
The Falcons released Dante Fowler Jr. after two seasons
The Atlanta Falcons posted a 7-10 record in 2021. Although it was an improvement from the 4-12 finish in 2020, the front office wants to see more. As a result, the team will be making changes in the offseason. The Falcons wasted no time, as they released Dante Fowler Jr. a month before the new league year starts.
Atlanta signed Fowler to a three-year deal in 2020. According to ESPN‘s Michael Rothstein, the two sides agreed to restructure the contract, reducing Fowler’s salary and bumping up potential earnings in incentives. He would get $1 million for five sacks, $2 million for seven sacks, and so on.
Fowler failed to meet any of the incentives in his two seasons with the Falcons, though. The Florida product registered 59 tackles, 7.5 sacks, and four forced fumbles during that span.
The Falcons hoped that Fowler could lead their pass-rushing efforts. However, the team ranked last in the NFL in sacks, with just 18 on the year. Despite his disappointing stint in Atlanta, the sixth-year edge rusher could be an asset for some teams, including the Baltimore Ravens.
The edge rusher should be on the Ravens’ radar
The Ravens could not have exited the 2021 season pleased with the outcome. John Harbaugh’s squad finished with an 8-9 record after losing six straight games to close the year.
Injuries played a massive role in the Ravens’ struggles, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Wink Martindale’s group ranked dead last in the NFL in pass defense, allowing 278.9 yards per game and 31 passing touchdowns on the season.
Defending the pass is two-fold. Sure, the secondary will catch the heat for getting beat by opposing receivers. However, great pass defense starts with generating a formidable rush on the quarterback. Dante Fowler Jr. could potentially help Baltimore in that department.
Martindale loved to send blitzes, but the rushers struggled to get home consistently. Tyus Bowser led the team with seven sacks, followed by rookie Odafe Oweh with five. The former Falcons outside linebacker doesn’t need to be an every-down player. Still, he could thrive situationally, given the talent around him.
General manager Eric DeCosta has admitted that he would like the Ravens to get younger on the defensive front. Adding Fowler could be a step in the right direction. Veteran defensive end Calais Campbell is a free agent and 35 years old. Dante Fowler Jr. could add depth if Baltimore doesn’t retain Campbell.
Baltimore hopes to return to a dominant defense in 2022
Over the years, most Baltimore Ravens teams have shared two consistent qualities — a strong rushing attack and a dominant defense. The team ranked third in rushing offense (145.8 yards per game). However, the defense struggled to hold up its end of the bargain.
The aforementioned pass defense was abysmal, but injuries deserve a good chunk of the blame for the Ravens’ woes. Baltimore ended the season without three of its starting defensive backs. Pro Bowl cornerback Marcus Peters suffered a torn ACL before the season opener. Safety DeShon Elliott and All-Pro corner Marlon Humphrey also went down with season-ending injuries.
While the Ravens couldn’t cover anyone, they excelled at stopping the run. They finished with the No. 1 run defense, allowing just 84.4 yards per game and 13 touchdowns on the ground.
Getting healthy across the board would be a huge step toward turning things around in 2022. Baltimore fired Wink Martindale and replaced him with former Michigan defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald. The team hopes Macdonald can help transform the defense and get it back to dominance.
The Ravens defense has some solid building blocks, but a few smart money moves could solidify the unit. Dante Fowler Jr. playing alongside Patrick Queen, Odafe Oweh, and Tyus Bowser would give Baltimore plenty of athleticism.
The Ravens must improve their depth to overtake Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC North.