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Rams

Rams pass rusher who bet on himself and came up big is ready to cash in

Will the Rams re-sign linebacker Dante Fowler or will the team let him walk in free agency?
Will the Rams re-sign linebacker Dante Fowler or will the team let him walk in free agency?
(Alex Davidson / Getty Images)

It does not hold playoff implications, but the Rams’ season finale against the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday at the Coliseum has payoff possibilities for several players, including edge rusher Dante Fowler.

Before this season, Fowler signed a one-year, $12-million contract 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 11½ sacks for a team that also features two-time NFL defensive player of the year Aaron Donald and veteran linebacker Clay Matthews, who have 12½ and eight sacks, respectively.

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“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 Jacksonville Jaguars in 2018. “That would be a cool thing, just to finish strong and to keep having a good resume on film.”

Veteran safety Eric Weddle is contemplating retirement, and he knows next week’s season finale between the Rams and Cardinals might be his final NFL game.

Fowler had at least two sacks in three games this season, including a career-best three in a victory over the Atlanta Falcons. He had 2½ sacks in the Rams’ 34-31 loss to the San Francisco 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 New England 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 divisional-round victory over the Dallas Cowboys and half a sack in the conference championship victory over the New Orleans Saints.

Rams linebacker Dante Fowler Jr. celebrates after sacking Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan.
Rams linebacker Dante Fowler Jr. celebrates after sacking Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan during a win on Oct. 20.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

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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 month 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, 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.”

Etc.


The Rams were off Monday. They will have a walk-through Tuesday and then be off Wednesday for Christmas Day, before resuming practice Thursday. ... The Rams are planning several activities and ceremonies in conjunction with their final game at the Coliseum. A uniform patch that features the peristyle and torch will be worn by players. The field design will harken to the NFL championship game in 1951, when the Rams defeated the Cleveland Browns. The late Kenny Washington will be honored as a Legend of the Game. After the game, fans will be invited to the field to watch a season-in-review video and fireworks show. Commemorative posters will be available to fans exiting the stadium after the third quarter.


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