Jaguars decline to exercise 5th-year option on Dante Fowler

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) is sacked by Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Dante Fowler (56) during the first half of the AFC championship NFL football game, Sunday, Jan. 21, 2018, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) The Jacksonville Jaguars declined to exercise the fifth-year option in defensive end Dante Fowler’s rookie contract.

The decision could mean Fowler, the third overall pick in the 2015 draft who had eight sacks last year, will become a free agent in 2019.

Executive vice president Tom Coughlin says ”we do like Dante and we feel that he’s on the verge of having a great season. … We want him to have a great season and earn a new long-term contract with us this year.”

Had the Jaguars picked up the option, they could have been on the hook for $14.2 million for Fowler in 2019. The contract would have been guaranteed only for injury. It would have been a huge risk to take on a backup to Pro Bowl pass-rusher Yannick Ngakoue.

Fowler has 12 sacks in three seasons, plus two more in the 2017 postseason.

He missed his entire rookie year in 2015 after tearing a knee ligament during his first minicamp. He also has dealt with off-field problems, including hitting a man and throwing his groceries in a lake in 2017.

Fowler was arrested in Miami Beach in March 2016 and charged with misdemeanor counts of assault against a police officer and resisting arrest without violence. The charges were later dropped. That arrest came a little more than two weeks after a video surfaced showing Fowler refereeing a violent fight between his girlfriend and an ex-girlfriend.

He also has a long list of traffic violations, including several for speeding.

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