As the Eagles transition into the offseason, it’s still “we” for Fletcher Cox.
Roughly 24 hours removed from the team’s season ending with a 31-15 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the veteran defensive tackle spoke to reporters during locker-clean-out day on Monday. It was a rocky season for Cox, to say the least.
He started the season slowly and publicly voiced his frustration with the way defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon was deploying him after a loss to the Las Vegas Raiders. The Eagles and Cox’s camp agreed to a contract restructuring at the start of the season, but it didn’t stop the team from nearly trading him at the deadline.
When asked about whether he’d talked to the team about him returning next season, Cox said he was happy to still be an Eagle before dismissing the question.
“I made it clear, I’m happy where I am right now,” Cox said. “If you want to ask me a question about that, I can probably give you [agent] Todd France’s number. He probably can update you on that.”
Cox, 31, is under contract through next season with a considerable salary-cap hit and has cap charges through 2024. The restructured deal is extremely complex and has a handful of variables involved, but the Eagles freed up roughly $11 million in salary-cap space in 2021. They used that money to give contract extensions to Jordan Mailata and Josh Sweat at the start of the season.
Under Cox’s new deal, the Eagles would create minimal cap relief if they released him this offseason and would garner slightly less by trading him. If he stays with the Eagles next season, he’ll count for roughly $14.9 million against the cap, which is about $8.8 million less than his original deal.
The new contract delays about $15 million of cap charges into 2023, when the cap is expected to go up.
On Monday, Cox wasn’t interested in discussing those numbers, though.
“I’m not open to talking about any type of contract situations or me being here,” he said.
For what it’s worth, Cox doesn’t come across as someone prepared to search for a new team. On several occasions during his news conference, he talked about next year’s team as if he’s planning on being a part of it and complimented both Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie and coach Nick Sirianni.
“We knew the culture that, number one, that Mr. Lurie’s created and also the culture that Nick has brought in here,” Cox said on the team’s resurgent second half of the season. “Nobody’s giving up and we wouldn’t let the outside noise kind of get to us. Basically, you just learn and grow from what we did toward the end of the season. Yesterday’s game is over with, but now look back at what we did.”
“Nick is a really good coach, everybody loves playing for him,” he added. “He’s got a sense of humor. He’s a player’s coach. You can’t do nothing but respect that. All of the coaches, really, from the offensive side, defensive side of the ball, special teams, you see that. You’re seeing what we’re trying to do here and it’s special.”
Cox even commended Gannon, saying the two had a conversation after his “outburst in the media,” and found a compromise that worked for them.
“I went and talked to JG,” Cox said. “That’s the only way two men can handle situations, you go talk to each other and you figure it out. We both figured it out. We both put the defense in the best positions to win. I think it allowed, the way we kind of moved some things around, it allowed the good players to get a lot of one-on-ones and just be disruptive. It was really fun playing.”
Cox finished the season with 3½ sacks and seven tackles for losses, both near his career lows. Two of his sacks came against the New York Giants in Week 15 and he had a half sack against Washington in Week 17. Cox’s best year statistically was 2018 when he had 10½ sacks.
While he had a down season statistically, Javon Hargrave had a career year opposite him. By the midway point of the year, Hargrave started drawing double teams from opposing offensive lines instead of Cox. He had a career-high 7½ sacks and nine tackles for losses.
Hargrave, who also spoke Monday, gave Cox credit for his breakout season.
“Just his communication on the field and helping me out with what the offensive line was about to do to us,” Hargrave said. “It was a big jump in my game. I understand the game a lot more just playing beside him.”