By John Reid
GateHouse Media Services
JACKSONVILLE — Coming off a season in which he had a career-high eight sacks, Dante Fowler was productive in 2017.
The Jaguars, however, didn’t think it was good enough to warrant picking up his fifth-year option that would have paid him $14.2 million this season.
Despite the franchise’s decision, Fowler said he does not harbor any resentment, and intends to prove himself on the field.
″I know how good of a player I am,″ said Fowler, who has combined for 12 sacks over the past two seasons. ″I know I’m one of the best players in this league. When I go out there, I’m going to make the best of my opportunities every time. I’m working hard to have the best season of my career.″
There remains a chance the Jaguars could come to terms on a contract agreement with Fowler before he hits the open market after this season.
In a statement released by the Jaguars in March after Fowler’s option was declined, executive president Tom Coughlin said: ″We want him to have a great season and earn a new long-term contract with us this year.″
Asked about his 2017 performance, Fowler said he played well, but was used mostly as a situational player coming off the bench.
Fowler played the fifth-most snaps among the Jaguars’ defensive lineman – 581 out of a possible 1,259.
As a backup defensive end behind Yannick Ngakoue, Fowler combined for 21 tackles in 16 games last season. In the AFC championship game against New England, Fowler sacked Tom Brady twice.
″I can really only do so much playing a certain percentage of the snaps,″ Fowler said. ″When I look back on it, I feel good but there are some things that I need to work on. I’m going to keep working hard and do my job so I can put good film out there for everybody to see.″
Fowler, who was the third overall pick in the 2015 NFL draft out of the University of Florida, hasn’t been on the field for either team or individual drills during the Jaguars’ offseason program that will end on Thursday with their final minicamp practice.
Instead, he has been working to recover from an undisclosed injury. During the opening day of minicamp on Tuesday, he was seen on one of the side fields doing rehab work with one of the team trainers.
However, Fowler said he’ll be ready when training camp opens next month.
He has not missed a game since he was sidelined for his entire rookie season in 2015 after sustaining a torn ACL during his first session of rookie minicamp.
″All I know is on that first day of pads, I’m going to be ready to go,″ Fowler said. ″Nobody ain’t holding me back.″
Defensive tackle Abry Jones no one on the team questions Fowler’s love for football.
″Sometimes Donte is a wild guy and sometimes it might take him the wrong way,″ Jones said. ″But he goes out there if he’s hurting or tired and he’s still going to give you 100 percent. He might complain or he might yell or curse, but he is still going to give you everything he’s got.″
Defensive coordinator Todd Wash expects Fowler will be in good physical shape and ready to go when the season starts.
″We expect for him to be an impact pass rusher,″ Wash said. ″We expect for him to play on first and second downs and be an impact on the game. That’s what Dante is and we expect that same stuff when he comes back.″
John Reid is a sports writer for the Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville.