Weekend Reading: Fletcher Cox Talks Extension

Plus, where do the Eagles' wide receivers rank amongst the NFC East?

Photo by: Jeff Fusco

Photo by: Jeff Fusco

Here’s this weekend’s roundup of the national stories about the Eagles:

Fletcher Cox spoke with Don Banks from SI.com to talk about his new contract extension.

DB: You’re from tiny Yazoo City, Miss., and you just received more guaranteed money than any defensive player in the game. What was the reaction back home?

FC: I could never have dreamed that. It was mind-blowing. The whole community of Yazoo City is very shocked and very proud of me, and my family, my whole support system is very happy and very excited for me, and they can’t wait for the season to start. Same as me.

DB: Your deal seems to underline that a 4–3 defensive tackle who can rush the passer is now one of the premier positions in the league. After playing defensive end in the 3–4 formation in Philadelphia, are excited to be shifting inside in Jim Schwartz’s new 4–3 lineup?

FC: Yeah, and I think at that position you have to be the leader, someone who’s just going out and playing balls to the wall. That’s a position where in that defense you have to be dominant. And I look at Coach Schwartz and think he’ll do a great job with us. I think it’s going to be a real good year for the Eagles defense.

DB:You didn’t attend most of the Eagles’ off-season program due to your contract situation. Do you know Jim Schwartz much yet?

FC: I know he wants and he demands greatness and he’s not going to settle for mediocre stuff. He wants it done the way he wants it done, I can tell that. And I like that about him already.

Andrew Brandt from SI.com takes a look at the financial side of the Cox extension.

Assuming Cox plays two seasons—a strong assumption, although one never knows the future in the NFL—he will activate a healthy $55.5 million guaranteed, which includes the full third-year (2018) salary and half of the fourth-year (2019) salary. Further, if Cox is still on the roster 21 months from now, in March of 2018, he will trigger the other half of the fourth-year salary, bringing the guarantee to a whopping $63.3 million. And payment terms are player-friendly, with half of the guarantee tied to bonus, whether signing ($26 million) or option ($6 million).

Cox is also fortunate to have completed his contract prior to transitioning into new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz’s system. Although he is expected to thrive, he is expected to operate as a defensive tackle (DT) rather than a defensive end (DE)—a move that could havehad negative financial ramifications. Looking ahead to Franchise Tag possibilities next year, the DT Tag projects to roughly $13.5 million while the DE tag projects north of $17 million. Now Cox has a two-year cash flow (almost $34 million) more than back-to-back DT tags and almost an amount for consecutive DE tags.

As for the Eagles, while Cox secured a predictably strong deal, they maintained precedent and structure that all teams crave: no guaranteed money beyond the first two years of the contract which, of course, transfers all risk back to the player. Teams continue to allocate risk to the player after the “easy gives” of early guaranteed money, even for the best players, hiding behind an antiquated funding rule (teams must fund all future guarantees). Agents, anxious to “hit their numbers” (as well as sometimes succumbing to a player’s cash needs), readily accept these team-friendly structures. The Eagles just secured their best player without worry of a precedent of more than two years of guaranteed money.

Even though the Eagles have spent the most money this offseason, their success might hinge on Carson Wentz, writes Joel Corry from CBSSports.com.

This should put the Eagles $5 million to $7.5 million over the projected cap heading into next offseason, which could result in some significant roster changes. Unless the current projected starting quarterback finally lives up to being a former No. 1 overall pick, the cap situation will almost necessitate moving on from Sam Bradford, who has a $22.5 million 2017 cap number before his $4 million roster bonus is payable on the fifth day of the 2017 league year early next March. $17 million of cap room would be gained by trading Bradford. It’s $13 million if he is released, because $4 million of his $13 million 2017 base salary is already fully guaranteed.

If that comes to pass, Carson Wentz would become one of the NFL’s cheaper starting quarterbacks. His 2017, 2018 and 2019 cap numbers are $6,062,804, $7,275,365 and $8,487,926, respectively. There wouldn’t be a big jump in cost for Wentz until 2020, when his fifth-year option salary should be over $20 million.

Head coach Doug Pederson said left tackle Jason Peters, 34, had some good years left in him during the Senior Bowl in January. It may be only wishful thinking given his age and Lane Johnson‘s contract. Johnson is grossly overpaid for a right tackle. There aren’t any other $7 million-per-year right tackles. His contract is more indicative of a high quality left tackle than a right tackle. Peters has an $11.2 million cap number in 2017. $9.2 million of cap space would be freed up by cutting him.

Running back Ryan Mathews has missed 23 games during his six-year NFL career. He has only played a full 16 games once in his career. If these trends continue, the Eagles may be inclined to pick up $4 million of cap room by parting ways with him.

Cox is the fifth-best interior defensive lineman, according to Doug Farrar of SI.com.

5. Fletcher Cox, Philadelphia Eagles

When any player signs the kind of contract Cox did on June 14—a six-year, $103 million extension with $63 million in injury guarantees—the first logical question is, “Is he worth it?” When we set aside the salary cap increases that are expected to raise the price tag for elite players across all positions over the next few years, we’re left judging by what Cox does as a player in unique circumstances. He totaled 9.5 sacks and 77 total pressures in 2015. Cox played on the end in Philly’s 3–4 base defense, but he also lined up pretty frequently as a zero-tech nose tackle—straight over the head of the center—and used his impressive bull-rush and pocket speed to disrupt there as well. It is rare in today’s NFL to see a guy be this type of a wrecking ball as a two-gap player, and now that new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz will move the Eagles back to a 4–3 base, Cox could really disrupt as a one-gap three-tech tackle and occasional sub-package end. So again, we’re back to the big question: Is he worth all that money? It’s a subjective question, but there are few interior players better than Cox in the league today.

The trio of Cox, Connor Barwin, and Malcolm Jenkins rank 15th in ESPN’s Bill Barnwell’s list of triplets in the league.

15. Philadelphia Eagles

DT Fletcher Cox, DE Connor Barwin, S Malcolm Jenkins

Cox’s importance to the Eagles was underlined with the six-year, $102 million deal he signed last week, one that will end up realistically paying him $63.4 million over the next four seasons. New defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz has built his defenses around devastating interior linemen such as Albert Haynesworth (Tennessee), Ndamukong Suh (Detroit) and Marcell Dareus (Buffalo), and Cox is next in that line of dominant disruptors. Barwin is one of the most versatile defenders in the league, capable of contributing as an excellent pass-rusher and an above-average cover linebacker at different times, but again, there’s a drop-off between those two and the rest of the defensive roster.

Jon Machota from the Dallas Morning News thinks that the Eagles have the worst group of wide receivers in the NFC East.

4. Philadelphia Eagles

Riley Cooper and Miles Austin are gone, and [Rueben]Randle has been added to the mix. The top six receiving options on the roster are Jordan Matthews, Nelson Agholor, Josh Huff, Randle, Zach Ertz and Brent Celek. That group isn’t close to the other three teams. Matthews was Philly’s leading receiver in 2015 with 997 yards and 8 touchdowns. Ertz followed with 853 yards and 2 TDs. Celek was next (398 yards, 3 TDs).

Agholor had a very disappointing rookie season. In 13 games, the first-round pick finished with 23 receptions on 44 targets for 283 yards and 1 TD. Agholor was recently accused of sexual assault by an exotic dancer at a Philadelphia strip club. Huff, a third-round pick in 2014, played in 15 games last season, totaling 312 yards and 3 touchdowns. Even though the talent on paper isn’t on the same level as their division rivals, the Eagles need new head coach Doug Pederson to find some way to get more out of the group than Chip Kelly did in 2015.

Head coach Doug Pederson had the eighth-best career out of all the current head coaches, writes Kevin Seifert of ESPN.com.

8. Doug Pederson | Philadelphia Eagles

Position, top level played: Quarterback, NFL (12 seasons)

Yes, Pederson is best remembered as a quarterback for teams that loved his presence in the locker room but had no plans to put him on the field. He backed up Brett Favre in Green Bay, kept the seat warm for Donovan McNabb in Philadelphia and was an emergency backup in Miami when Dan Marino tore his Achilles tendon. Mixed in was one disastrous season with the Browns. According to Pro Football Reference, Pederson’s time in Cleveland put him in rare company. He managed just two touchdown passes in eight starts, tied for the second fewest in a season with at least eight starts in the league’s post-merger history. Pederson, though, remains one of the best quarterbacks in the history of the University of Louisiana-Monroe.

Something you might not know: Pederson’s teams had a .176 winning percentage in his 17 career starts (3-14). The only NFL quarterback with fewer wins in at least 17 starts (since the 1970 merger) is Chris Weinke (two in 20 starts), according to Pro Football Reference.

Will Brinson of CBSSports.com highlights some of the key figures and moments from the team’s history in the Super Bowl era.

The Bizarre

The Bounty Bowl

The Ryan family does not lack for drama when it comes to off-field behavior and they do not lack for intensity when it comes to defensive performance on the field. They got both traits from the patriarch, Buddy Ryan, author of the 46 defense who coached the Eagles coach from 1986-1990.

During Ryan’s next-to-last season in Philadelphia, the Eagles played the Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day, with Ryan squaring off against an equally feisty coach in Jimmy Johnson, then in his first year with Dallas.

The Eagles would wax the Cowboys 27-0, but drama emerged after the game when Johnson accused Ryan of putting bounties on his players. And called him fat. Buddy didn’t appreciate that.