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With option declined, Jags' Fowler aims to prove worth

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Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Dante Fowler produced a career-high eight sacks in 2017, a total that ranked third on the team.

Still, the Jaguars declined to exercise its fifth-year option on Fowler, who entered the league as the third-overall pick of the 2015 NFL Draft.

Had the Jaguars used the option on the defensive end in 2018, Fowler would have earned a base salary of $14.2 million.

Instead, Fowler enters the final year of his rookie contract on a base salary of $3.6 million with a goal to prove himself worthy of a large payday.

"I know how good of a player I am," Fowler said, via John Reid of the Florida Times-Union. "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."

Fowler's rookie season was wrecked by an ACL injury suffered during the offseason workout program. When he returned in 2016, Fowler became a part of the defensive rotation and has appeared in 32 games with one start over the past two seasons, totaling 53 tackles (41 solo) and 12 sacks in that span.

While the production doesn't match his lofty draft status, the Jaguars continue to believe there is plenty of untapped potential in Fowler, who turns 24 on Aug. 3.

"He is making good practice and we like how he practices and how he plays, as he did in the AFC Championship game," Jaguars executive vice president of football operations Tom Coughlin said in a statement on May 2, "and we want him to have a great season and earn a long-term contract with us this year."

With motivation to prove himself, Fowler could very well set himself up for lucrative deal with Jacksonville before he hits the open market.

But as Around the NFL's Kevin Patra pointed out, Fowler's youth and depth of potential free-agent defensive ends in 2018 could place him on the higher end of contracts, provided he turns in a productive campaign in the regular season.

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