LOS ANGELES — It does not hold playoff implications, but the Rams’ season finale against the Cardinals on Sunday at the Coliseum has payoff possibilities for several players, including edge rusher Dante Fowler.
Before this season, the former Lakewood High and UF standout signed a one-year, $12 million deal that included $2 million in performance bonuses, according to overthecap.com. Fowler was intent on showing the Rams and other teams he was a difference-maker worthy of a lucrative multiyear deal.
Fowler, 25, has done so.
He has a career-best 11 1/2 sacks for a team that also features two-time NFL defensive player of the year Aaron Donald and veteran linebacker Clay Matthews, who have 12 1/2 and eight sacks, respectively.
“Still got one game left, so I want to finish really strong,” said Fowler, acquired by the Rams in a trade-deadline deal with the Jaguars in 2018. “That would be a cool thing, just to finish strong and to keep having a good resume on film.”
Fowler had at least two sacks in three games this season, including a career-best three in a victory over the Falcons. He had 2 1/2 sacks in a 34-31 loss to the 49ers last Saturday.
The 6-foot-3, 255-pound Fowler had shown flashes of his potential since the Jaguars selected him with the third pick in the 2015 draft. Fowler had eight sacks in 2017 and two more in the AFC Championship Game against the Patriots. Because of a series of incidents on and off the field, however, the Jaguars did not exercise their fifth-year option on Fowler.
Last season, after he was traded to the Rams, Fowler had two sacks and several important plays in eight games for a team that advanced to the Super Bowl. Fowler had a sack in the NFC division-round victory over the Cowboys and half a sack in the conference championship victory over the Saints.
After the season, Fowler said he “bet on himself” and opted to sign the one-year deal with the Rams, the team that welcomed him and let him be himself.
“I really appreciate them for giving me the opportunity to show them that I am a player,” Fowler said.
The Rams could sign Fowler to a multiyear deal, another one-year contract or use the franchise tag, which would be about $16.2 million. Or they could let him sign elsewhere.
In the last 18 months the Rams have signed several players to massive extensions, including Donald. In October, they gave up two first-round picks in a trade for cornerback Jalen Ramsey, a former FSU standout who is line for a market-breaking deal. Middle linebacker Cory Littleton also will be an unrestricted free agent.
“I would love to stay here and see if something worked out,” Fowler said. “I know they have their hands full, so we’ll just see how it works out.
“It would be nice to stay with the best player in the league, A.D., and have Jalen and me and Cory — that would be really cool. But there’s so many good players on this team, and I know how the business goes.”