Philadelphia Eagles

Eagles release Cox, but veteran DT could return


The Eagles on Thursday released six-time Pro Bowler Fletcher Cox with a post-June 1 designation, a league source confirmed to NBC Sports Philadelphia.

There’s still a chance the 31-year-old defensive tackle could return to the Eagles on a different contract -- they're working to bring him back -- but there’s also a chance one of the best players in franchise history could be playing elsewhere in 2022.

NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo first reported the news.

And as Garafolo mentioned, $18 million would have become fully guaranteed on Cox’s deal at 4 p.m. on Thursday. That triggered the move on Thursday. Cox had been the topic of trade discussions since before last season's deadline but the Eagles never got an offer they deemed worthy.

Basically, if the Eagles re-sign him, they'll save whatever the difference is between that $18 million figure and what he signs for. 

For cap purposes, by using a post-June 1 designation on Cox, the Eagles will break up his cap charge between this year and next, but they will have to carry his full cap hit through that date (roughly $15 million). OverTheCap's Jason Fitzgerald took a deep dive into one of the more complex contracts in the NFL. According to Fitzgerald, the Eagles will save either $2.12 million or $5.31 million in cap space in June depending on how the NFL treats an option proration on an option that was not exercised. Got all that?

Cox has been with the Eagles since 2012, when they drafted him with the No. 12 overall pick out of Mississippi State. He ended up being one of the greatest defensive players in franchise history.

Without him this season (if he doesn’t return) the Eagles will bring back Javon Hargrave and Milton Williams but don’t have much depth beyond them. Now it seems like there’s a decent chance they could use one of their three first-round picks on a defensive tackle next month.

In his 10 years with the Eagles, Cox played in 156 games with 150 starts. He compiled 58 sacks, 78 tackles for loss, 142 quarterback hits and 14 forced fumbles.

Cox was selected to the Pro Bowl in six consecutive seasons from 2015-2020 and was a first-team All-Pro in 2018. Cox was also named as a member of the NFL’s All-Decade Team for the 2010s.

Just Chuck Bednarik (eight), Brian Dawkins (seven), Jason Peters (seven) and Reggie White (seven) have been named to more Pro Bowl teams as a member of the Eagles and his streak of six consecutive Pro Bowls is tied with Pete Pihos for the second-longest streak in franchise history behind White with seven.

As great as Cox has been in his Eagles career, there was a clear drop-off in play during the 2021 season and Cox also went public about his frustration over new defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon’s scheme and his role in it.

Eventually, Gannon and Cox found some common ground and Cox was more productive down the stretch in 2021 but the Eagles came pretty close to trading him at the deadline during last season. There were a few teams interested in Cox back then, with the Steelers and Raiders reportedly among them.

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“During the whole process I was in communication with Howie (Roseman) and Nick (Sirianni) and my agent, and there were some teams interested in me, and the most important part about it was they wanted me here and I wanted to be here,” Cox said in November.

“I’m happy to be here, and I’m looking forward to going out and playing at the Linc on Sunday. … They wanted me here, Mr. Lurie wanted me here, this organization wanted me here, I want to be here. Forever Philly and I’ve been here for 10 years and I’m happy to be here.”

In a down year in 2021, Cox still played in 16 games and had 3 1/2 sacks, 35 tackles, 7 tackles for loss and 12 quarterback hits. He might not be the Pro Bowl-level player he once was but he can still be a good player in the league.

“I know I can still play at that level,” Cox said in December. “Obviously, didn’t have the numbers this year. It’s been up and down for me. I kind of expected it. All I can do is go out and finish this season strong. I still know I’m one of the best D-tackles in the league. I’m not salty about it at all.”

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