$63 million guaranteed, the highest for a non-quarterback in NFL history and it went to who? That would be Philadelphia’s Fletcher Cox. Who is Fletcher Cox?
He’s the “blank” time Pro Bowler that has been wreaking constant havoc on the defensive line for the Philadelphia Eagles. He entered the league as the 12th overall pick in the 2012 NFL draft. Cox is an underrated player that is arguably top five at his position, defensive tackle. Fletcher doesn’t get the recognition he deserves because the Eagles defense, specifically the secondary has not played well the past few years. The casual football fan might have never heard of Flethcer Cox, even wonders why he deserves a six-year extension worth $103 million dollars. That’s irrelevant, what matters is that he received this pay day because he is one of the best defensive players in the NFL.
It’s fair for you to question why a defensive tackle not named Suh or Donald is worth this type of money. Especially on a defense that doesn’t rank in the top five.
It’s rare that defensive players get big pay days, it’s even rarer when they aren’t a sack master rushing off the edge. The Eagles wouldn’t of paid him like one of the best players in the NFL if they didn’t actually believe he was one of the best defenders in the NFL. The relentless Cox has been named All-NFL Second team the past two seasons and posted 9.5 sacks last season. Last year’s sacks put his career total at has 22 and he’s an interior defensive lineman. Numbers and production rarely lie, which made this decision by the Eagles a no-brainer.
Standing at 6’4 and 300 pounds, Cox is a great athlete for his size. He’s also proven to be extremely durable, one of the few members of the Philadelphia defense that is always available. He takes up multiple blockers with his strength to stuff the run, uses that quickness to close down on quarterbacks repeatedly. More often than not, his presence and activity allow other teammates to make plays.
In a league where injuries hurt teams, the Eagles have gotten lucky with Cox, who has played all 16 games for three straight seasons. Having him on the field on game day is vital for the Eagles defense. Examples of this were shown when he was playing under Chip Kelly, who always left his defense on the field a lot because of how fast the offense would work. That stamina to play every snap is a great skill for any big boy on the defensive line to have, because he doesn’t need to leave the field for any reason. Which doesn’t put the defensive at a disadvantage, their best player is always there.
To further cement the case for Cox to receive this type of pay day is his versatility. He has played all over the defensive line for both a 43 and 34 defenses under a few different coordinators since he joined the Eagles. Newly hired Defensive Coordinator Jim Schwartz scheme will put Cox in the best positions to make plays though. He will play that Ndamukong Suh role for Schwartz, but he has the ability to be more effective than Suh was in Detroit. He might not be as quick as Suh is, but he plays with more discipline and strength against the run. Schwartz will surely take advantage of Fletcher’s skill set in his defense, which should push the Eagles defense into the Top 10 in the NFL, if the backend holds up.
Cox may not be a house hold name (yet), but that doesn’t take away from what he has done on the field. His contract shows what Philly thinks that he’s worth, that he’s worthy of being paid like one of the elite defenders in the league.
On a side note, this deal helps the agents of Von Miller and Kawann Short. Two more players that are at the top or near the top of their respective positions. It’s fair if you haven’t watched Cox or think that he’s not worthy of his new deal. At least now, he’ll start getting the attention he deserves and those who are against and for him will be watching going forward. In NFL circles, Cox has passed the eye test and is seen as an elite player. Like it or love it, all eyes are on Fletcher Cox, my bet is that he’ll continue to prove his worth.