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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Despite a season-ending injury, rookie Dante Fowler Jr. has a fully guaranteed contract.
Fowler signed a four-year, $23.5 million contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars on Tuesday. The deal is fully guaranteed and includes a $15.3 million signing bonus — a portion of which Fowler already spent.
The third overall selection in the draft last month, Fowler tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during a rookie minicamp Friday and will miss the season. Beforehand, he signed an injury protection waiver that guaranteed the Jaguars would negotiate in good faith.
"Negotiations with Dante's representatives were ongoing prior to his injury last weekend and nothing has changed," Jaguars general manager Dave Caldwell said. "His attitude and spirit that he has shown recently are part of the reasons we selected him third overall. He understands the process ahead of him and is willing to do the work.
"He has a bright future ahead of him with the Jaguars and we look forward to him getting back on the field in 2016 and for many years to come."
Fowler was still using crutches to get around the facility Tuesday as he's awaits surgery.
"Now that this moment is here, I'll always remember this date," Fowler said. "It's like my second birthday."
Fowler's knee buckled during an 11-on-11 drill during the first hour of the two-day camp. Fowler had to be helped off the field and carted to the locker room. Tests later revealed the extent of the damage.
"It's like a bittersweet type of thing," he said. "Things happen for a reason. I'm very humbled to know that Mr. (Shad) Khan, and coach Gus (Bradley) and the whole team just believe in me. It just shows how true they are to me. I saw that when I came to visit. That's why I used to talk about the Jags all the time. I just felt that vibe and felt that family vibe, and they're real.
"Mr. Khan, he's a man of his word. It's just really a loss of words right now. I'm going to work hard and just go out there and show them guys when I come back that this wasn't a bad decision. This was a good decision. This was a great decision that they made."
Fowler already spent some of his big bonus to buy his mother a car for Mother's Day.
"That's something I always wanted to do as a kid," he said. "Just to see the smile on her face and just to see one of the big accomplishments I made in my life. I went from making little letters for her in elementary school and stuff like that to getting her the car that she always wanted. That's all I wanted to do. Whatever else with the money, I don't know."
Fowler had 14 ½ sacks in three years at Florida, including 8 ½ last season, and was one of the best defensive players in the Southeastern Conference.
He was the first non-quarterback selected last week, taken by the Jaguars after quarterbacks Jameis Winston (Tampa Bay) and Marcus Mariota (Tennessee).
The Jaguars were counting on Fowler to be a centerpiece of the defense for years. They had expected him to be a Day 1 starter. Instead, they will have to wait a year to get him back on the field.
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