Last year the Jacksonville Jaguars declared picking up Blake Bortles' fifth-year option was a "smart business decision." This time around, the team is making a different choice when it comes to a first-round pick's option year.
NFL Network's Mike Garafolo reports the Jags will decline the 2019 option of pass rusher Dante Fowler Jr., per a source informed of the decision. The fifth year would have cost the Jags $14.2 million, guaranteed for injury only.
Fowler was selected with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2015 draft. The deadline for picking up the fifth-year options from that draft is Wednesday.
The Florida product's career got off to an unfortunate start when Fowler tore his ACL on the first day of minicamp in May, forcing him to miss the entirety of his rookie season.
The 6-foot-3 pass rusher returned in 2016 to start the season opener versus the Green Bay Packers, compiling three tackles. It was the only start of his career, as he's played a rotational rushing role in Jacksonville. In 32 regular-season games over the past two seasons, the 23-year-old compiled 53 tackles and 12 total sacks, including eight in 2017. He added two sacks of Tom Brady during the Jags' playoff run this season.
With the quick rise of young stud pass rusher Yannick Ngakoue and a plethora of high-profile defensive linemen, the $14.2 million price tag for Fowler was likely too high for the Jags to justify exercising for 2019. Fowler could also face league discipline stemming from a July 2017 arrest.
Garafolo added, however, that the team believes Fowler is an ascending player and hopes to hammer out a long-term deal before he reaches free agency. Given Fowler's young age and the dearth of potential free agents at his position, the pass rusher could price himself out of Jacksonville if he balls out in 2018.