A COUPLE beads of sweat topped his forehead and a huge grin was impossible to hide.
Meet Fletcher Cox, Eagles star defensive tackle and the richest man ever to come out of tiny Yazoo City, Mississippi.
"It's mind-blowing," Cox said of the six-year, $103 million contract he signed on Thursday. "When you're dealing with that much money, it's really mind-blowing, and I'm really excited about it."
Cox, the best athlete currently playing in Philadelphia, reportedly received a $26 million signing bonus with $63 million of the deal guaranteed. He is signed through the 2022 season, and he's worth it.
It's the largest contract given to a non-quarterback in football history, and the most significant of the $280 million in guaranteed money the Eagles have handed out this offseason.
"I'm just going to (stay humble) and keep working every day in practice and be the leader this team is expecting me to be," said Cox, 25.
Right after his re-elevation to general manager, Howie Roseman compiled a to-do list longer than Chip Kelly's playbook - but without all the funky pictures. Sign this guy, trade that guy, draft (hopefully) a franchise quarterback. But all through the process, Roseman insisted that his No. 1 priority was signing Cox.
Cox watched patiently as teammates such as tight end Zach Ertz ($42.5 million total), cornerback Malcolm Jenkins ($40.5 million) and offensive tackle Lane Johnson ($63 million) were re-signed to newer and better deals. Even quarterback Sam Bradford got $18 million as a one-year placeholder while Carson Wentz figures out the NFL game and tricky restrooms.
These men, and others such as Jason Kelce and Jordan Hicks, will be the core that either gets the Eagles back into the playoffs regularly or turns Roseman into Ruben Amaro Jr.
"For us to have a run of sustained success like we were fortunate to have from 1999-2008, where we went to five championship games, we needed some continuity," the Eagles GM said.
Roseman joked that showing all of his cards to Cox and agent Todd France wasn't the smartest negotiating tactic, but then Fletcher Cox is no ordinary talent. Defensive tackles of Cox's size (6-4, 310 pounds), length (34 1/2 wingspan) and tenacity keep opposing offensive coordinators awake at night.
Some of the best things he does, such as occupy multiple offensive linemen, often cannot be measured by standard statistics.
Cox was second-team All-Pro last year and appeared in his first Pro Bowl. After just four seasons, Cox is sixth in Eagles history among interior defensive linemen with 22 sacks. Sing the Eagles fight song if you knew Andy Harmon was first with 39 1/2.
Not only that, but the prevailing thought is that he will thrive even more in new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz's 4-3 alignment than he did in the 3-4 Billy Davis generally used these last three seasons.
"When you can get pressure up the middle and in a quarterback's face, it's hard (for opponents)," Roseman said. "It's hard for them. It makes them uncomfortable. I think this is something that we always believed in. There were very few guys that are this big and this athletic and have this kind of motor that are ever born, let alone play in the National Football League."
Already, Jets defensive tackle Muhammad Wilkerson, from Temple, said he wants more than Cox. In Carolina, Kawaan Short also is seeking a new deal. Ditto for Denver sackmaster and Super Bowl hero Von Miller. But that's their problem.
Cox met with reporters at the NovaCare Complex on Thursday. He was practically giddy, which was understandable given the modest roots of his background. His graduating class at Yazoo City High was 100. The town's population is about 11,000, with a poverty rate of 48 percent.
He was due to make $7.799 million in the final year of what was then his rookie contract. A threat of a holdout during training camp or a game of franchise tag (which players dread because of the insecurity of those one-year deals) would have been in play without this extension.
Cox said he didn't think negotiations would ever get that poisonous. Still, he stayed away from optional organized team activities during the spring, but did report for a mandatory minicamp last week.
As one of the elite talents in the league, the missed time will mean nothing when the season rolls around in September. If it does, Roseman just made a $103 million mistake.
This isn't the only roll of the dice Roseman has made, just the most expensive. The Eagles did miss the playoffs last season with many of the players Roseman has targeted to hold on to.
"That's a fair question," Roseman said. "The honest answer is we were 7-9 and we're not sitting here and talking about being the '85 Bears that were this dominant team. But when you look at the teams that are really good teams and have a chance to be great teams, it's because they have a core group of players that they keep together. And when you're changing guys in and out and you're losing good players that you invested draft picks, it's hard to build anything. It's hard to sustain anything."
Looking at you, LeSean McCoy, Jeremy Maclin, et. al.
He continued: "So we know we have a lot of other areas that we have to improve. Again, it would have been much easier from all of our perspectives to invest in guys that could just make this year's team better. But we felt like we had to put ourselves in a position to have - at some point - a run of success where it's not just piecemeal year-to-year."
In 2012, the Eagles, with Howie Roseman in the war room, traded up three spots to No. 12 to draft Fletcher Cox. They dealt their own pick at No. 15, plus selections in the fourth and sixth rounds, to Seattle. Roseman on Thursday revealed that as they were making that move, another NFL team he declined to name offered the Eagles a future first-rounder if the Birds would trade down from 12th. They, of course, declined. Here is who Seattle ended up with.
* Bruce Irvin, LB, No. 15: Signed a four-year, $37 million contract with Oakland in March . . . Has been a good pro, but gained infamy for becoming the first player ejected from a Super Bowl two years ago when he punched Rob Gronkowski at the end of the Patriots' win over the Seahawks.
* Jaye Howard, DT, 4th round: Played in just two games with the Seahawks before he was waived . . . Latched on with the Chiefs and has played every game the last two seasons . . . Had 5 1/2 sacks in 2015 and signed a two-year, $12 million extension to stay with Andy Reid's club.
* Jeremy Lane, CB, 6th round: The only player still with Seattle, Lane has struggled to stay healthy . . . Had a nice interception of Tom Brady in the Super Bowl 49 loss, but tore his ACL on the play . . . Missed the first 10 games last season as a result of the injury, but registered two picks in the final six . . . Signed a four-year contract this spring for $23 million.
The 2012 Draft
Looking at the top of Fletcher Cox's draft class:
1. Andrew Luck, QB, Colts: Best young quarterback in the league, even after missing nine games last season . . . On the verge of signing a contract more lucrative than what Cox just inked.
2. Robert Griffin III, QB, Redskins: Injuries and the emergence of Kirk Cousins are the primary reasons he is now a Cleveland Brown.
3. Trent Richardson, RB, Browns: Did not play last season . . . Is now with Baltimore, his fourth team in five years.
4. Matt Kalil, T, Vikings: Has been on the decline since reaching the Pro Bowl as a rookie.
5. Justin Blackmon, WR, Jaguars: His only full season was 2012. Then he ran into substance abuse suspensions and legal trouble, and is out of football.
6. Morris Claiborne, CB, Cowboys: Dallas traded up from the 14th pick to get Claiborne, but he's been a disappointment.
7. Mark Barron, S, Buccaneers: Traded to the Rams midway through the 2014 season and has turned around his career. Has been moved to OLB and become a playmaker.
8. Ryan Tannehill, QB, Dolphins: Took a step back last season, but still has the potential to be a top 10 quarterback.
9. Luke Kuechly, LB, Panthers: One of the best linebackers in football.
10. Stephon Gilmore, CB, Bills: A solid starter who is mired in contentious negotiations for a contract extension.
11. Dontari Poe, DT, Chiefs: Good player, but nowhere near Cox's level.
12. Fletcher Cox, DT, Eagles: Said he'll be even better in a 4-3 alignment.
13. Michael Floyd, WR, Cardinals: Good, physical receiver who just hasn't put it all together yet.
14. Michael Brockers, DT, Rams: Is a competent cog on a deep defensive line. Still working under his rookie deal.
15. Bruce Irvin, DL/LB, Seahawks: Signed with the Raiders after notching 22 sacks in four seasons with Seattle.