The Atlanta Falcons established a pipeline to the Los Angeles Rams in free agency with the addition of outside linebacker Dante Fowler Jr. and running back Todd Gurley this offseason.
While Gurley’s stint with the Rams had fizzled out, Fowler’s was on the rise following a rocky start to his career with the Jacksonville Jaguars. The former No. 3 pick in the 2015 NFL Draft was on the verge of becoming another bust until he was traded during the 2018 campaign.
The change-of-scenery turned out to be just what Fowler needed after playing an integral role in the Super Bowl run for Los Angeles that season. He followed it up with a career year by finishing the 2019 season with 58 tackles, 11.5 sacks and a fumble recovery that he returned for a touchdown.
There are a number of factors that helped Fowler earn his big three-year, $45 million contract with the Falcons, however, he praised his former team for helping him do so by allowing him to play to his strengths, via the Associated Press:
“They knew all the good things I could do,” Fowler said. “They put me in the right situations to be an elite football player. I wasn’t stubborn. Whatever I could do to get the sack and make the team better, that’s what I did. I really appreciate what they did for me. They allowed me to blossom and let this league see what kind of player I can be.”
Fowler added that playing alongside such elite company such as defensive tackles Aaron Donald and Michael Brockers also paid huge dividends:
“I was around a lot of great guys,” Fowler said. “I saw how they carried himself as pros.”
There is no question that Fowler was among the primary beneficiaries of the havoc that Donald wreaked as the NFL’s premier defensive player. He will now be tasked with serving as the focal point of a Falcons’ pass rush that finished with the second-fewest sacks (28) last year.
Although the Rams have assembled a committee in the backfield to fill the void left by Gurley, it remains to be seen which player will take over Fowler’s responsibilities on the edge.
Los Angeles added another former top-10 pick that has struggled to fit the billing in outside linebacker Leonard Floyd after his underwhelming stint with the Chicago Bears. New defensive coordinator Brandon Staley will also be relying on Samson Ebukam and the untested Justin Lawler to hold down the edge as well.