Dallas Cowboys Dante Fowler: Standout season or surprise cut?

The Dallas Cowboys didn’t give fans much to be excited about this past free agency period. Not only did they lose key players like Randy Gregory, Amari Cooper (via trade) and Cedrick Wilson, but they failed to sign comparable players to fill the vacancies.

You’ll probably remember, the  Dallas Cowboys went into damage control when they lost Gregory to Denver during a very public “cluster-fudge” of a contract negotiation. They did their darnedest to sell fans on a “committee” approach to covering their key losses. Some latched onto their words hook, line, and sinker, while others remained highly skeptical of such a solution.

To think players like Dorance Armstrong and Dante Fowler would seamlessly replace Gregory seemed a little far-fetched from a production-per-snap basis, even if Fowler’s ties to Dan Quinn run deep.

Does Dante Fowler have better odds of producing a 10+ sack season or getting cut from the Dallas Cowboys altogether?

At the time of Fowler’s signing we were quick to dive into the contract details here at Sport DFW. How his deal was structured would go a long way in interpreting role and expectations for the seven-year vet. We break the contract details down below, but essentially the Cowboys are only locked into $1 million in guarantees per OTC. That’s not a very big commitment.

The Dallas Cowboys signed Fowler as an insurance policy of sorts. They had to cover the lost production of Gregory because unless they expected Armstrong to double his career-best production himself, they’d need a vet like Fowler to help fill the void.

The Dallas Cowboys also saw an EDGE-rich draft staring them in the face. They knew there was an excellent chance a top talent would be available to them and they may not need a veteran in 2022 when their roster was finally complete. They didn’t want to break the bank on a top-end pass-rusher so Fowler was the perfect signing.

How Fowler fits the Dallas Cowboys

By now everyone knows what they’re getting with Fowler. The 27-year-old EDGE has only exceeded eight sacks once in his career. And that one time he did, he was flanked by elite pass-rushers who took most of the attention off him.

Optimistic Dallas Cowboys fans see that same ideal situation here in Dallas. They see Micah Parsons, possibly the most gifted pass rusher in the NFL, and DeMarcus Lawrence, one of the most respected EDGE players in the NFL, taking most of the attention. It’s perfectly reasonable to expect a good season from a guy who will rarely get doubled and only has to rush situationally.

Does that mean Fowler is in line for a 10+ sack season?

Not so fast. Remember, the Dallas Cowboys were able to cash-in on the NFL Draft’s top strength, pass-rusher, just like they hoped to. They selected Dan Quinn’s personal pet project, Sam Williams, in the second round and seem primed to enter the 2022 season with him in a designated pass-rusher role.

The same role Dante Fowler was brought in to fill.

The Dallas Cowboys logjam

Here’s where the logjam begins. The Cowboys are committed to Lawrence and Armstrong big, so they are locks on this team. And Parsons may be labeled a LB, but he’s going to play plenty of EDGE in key situations so we’d be wise to factor him in the rotation heavily.

That’s six EDGE players, not counting Fowler, two of which already project as pass-rushing specialists.

We also have Tarell Basham who provides a versatile brand of football at DE and the young (and cheap) Chauncey Golston who has a place on this team as well. That’s six EDGE players not counting Fowler, two of which already project as pass-rushing specialists (and are absolute locks to make the team).

Just by the numbers there are going to be some surprise cuts on the Dallas Cowboys D-line this summer. And if a veteran looks like a redundant piece, or even worse, a progress stopper, he could find himself on the chopping block, even if he goes way back with the coach.

It’s all going to come down the rookie. If Sam Williams can show he’s a viable threat as a pass-rusher, there won’t be a place for Fowler. Quinn put his neck out for Williams and is committed to make him work. He’s cheap and under team control for four seasons, so you can bet the coupon-clipping Stephen Jones prefers Williams as well.

Even if Williams struggles somewhat, opportunities are going to be limited for Dante Fowler. Tank will get the bulk of the passing downs on one side and we expect Parsons will get a portion of the opportunities on the other side (Dallas doesn’t want to waste Parsons by not sending him on the rush and they don’t want to blitz every passing play either, so expect EDGE snaps).

That leaves all the remaining DE opportunities for Fowler, Williams, Golston, and Armstrong to split. Keep in mind, Dallas is still really high on Armstrong and Golston’s development so they’re not going to give away all their snaps on passing downs.

What has better chances of happening: Dante Fowler having standout season or Dante Fowler being a surprise cut? It looks like the latter.

The safe answer to this all is to say he’s somewhere in the middle this season. He gets handful of opportunities, makes a handful of plays, and shares time with everyone. But be careful with the Kool-Aid right now because he’s much closer to being cut than he is breaking out.