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How Fletcher Cox's contract compares to the rest of the NFL

A big time contract for a big time player

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The Philadelphia Eagles and Fletcher Cox agreed to a massive, 6 year, $102 million contract extension on Monday, making Cox one of the highest paid non-QBs in the league. Pro Football Talk reports that the contract has $36 million guaranteed at signing and a total of $55.5 million will be guaranteed by March of 2017. Cox gets a $26 million signing bonus, and guaranteed salaries of $1.3M in 2016 and $3M in 2017, and a $6M "option bonus" in 2017 which will undoubtedly be picked up. His 2018 salary of $11.5 million is guaranteed for injury only, but becomes fully guaranteed in March of 2017, and his 2019 salary of $15.6 million is half guaranteed in March 2017 and the other half becomes guaranteed in March 2018.

In other words, Fletcher Cox will be on the Eagles until at least 2019, which will be his age 29 season. The Eagles have locked in one of the best DTs in the league for the prime of his career.

Jason Fitzgerald of Over the Cap feels "Cox’ [sic] contract should become the next jumping point for the next wave of extensions or free agents not named [Von] Miller. This contract should further bolster Muhammad Wilkerson’s demands on a new contract with the Jets." Which highlights another reason the new Eagles front office has been eager to get this extension done as soon as possible: so that Wilkerson could not further boost his value.

Cox is now one of the highest paid defensive players in the league, and compares well to other top paid DTs.

Peer pressure

With $102 million of total money, Fletcher Cox is the 2nd highest paid DT behind Ndamukong Suh, and 1st in guaranteed money, which is to be expected since his is the most recent contract. Gerald McCoy and Marcell Darius have similar contracts. But talking total money in the NFL is misleading. Players generally play for the first two years on the contract they signed then either restructure it or are released. Comparing Cox's contract to those four DTs, the Eagles come out pretty well.

Signed 2 Yr Salary 2 Yr Bonus 2 Yr Total 4 Yr Salary 4 Yr Bonus 4 Yr Total
Ndamukong Suh 2015 4.5 25.5 30* 31.4 25.5 56.9*
Fletcher Cox 2016 4.3 28.4 32.7 31.4 30.6 62
Gerald McCoy 2014 22.5 11 33.5 41.8 17.5 59.3
Marcell Dareus 2015 10.7 26.7 37.4 30.4 29 59.4

*The Dolphins have already restructured Suh's contract.

Both sides make out pretty well here. Cox is one of the highest paid defensive players not just at his position but in the league, and in the first two years the Eagles are actually paying less than the Bucs are for McCoy or the Bills are for Dareus, who signed their deals over a year ago. Four years into his contract he is scheduled to earn more than either, but not significantly so.

Both sides aren't just getting a good deal on paper, the situation that Cox is in means the Eagles should see a significant return on investment.

He's proved he's worth it

It seems obvious to say it, but Fletcher Cox already being a top player is the best indicator that he will be worth his contract. Every year there are teams who throw money at players who are or are about to be at the top of their position in free agency, but not at the top of their position in the league. Brock Osweiler and Malik Jackson are two of the highest paid players signed in free agency this year, between them they have one 16 game season. Cox was an All Pro in 2015 and played at a similar level in 2014.

He's staying put

No matter the position, the most common thread between players who go bust on huge contracts is that they changed teams. When a player changes teams, nearly all the variables change too. The player has an entirely new supporting cast to play with and fit in with both on and off the field. The player also most likely has a new coaching staff and with it new scheme, though sometimes the player chooses to sign with his new team in part because of a familiarity with the coach. The new coach doesn't use the player the same way, so he doesn't get the best out of the player. That's not the case with Cox, even though he is under a new defensive coordinator and scheme.

Built for scheme

Though the 2016 Eagles defense will, from a scheme standpoint, be completely different than the 2015 defense, it is one that suits Cox even better. Cox was drafted in 2012 to play on Juan Castillo/Jim Washburn's wide 9 defensive front, where his athleticism fit perfectly. That defense was supposed to be a carbon copy of the one that Jim Schwartz ran in Tennesse and Detroit, where Albert Haynesworth and Ndamukong Suh excelled. Now, Cox plays for Schwartz in a similar defense that he was drafted into. It's no coincidence that Schwartz took the job.

Prime years

Most top contracts are given out when a player is in the middle of his physical prime, which means the team signing him can only expect a downward slope of production. Fletcher Cox is beginning those prime years, so we can expect that the Eagles will be getting the peak years of Cox, who will be entering his age 26 season. Suh and Jairus Byrd changed teams in his age 28 season, and recent big and risky contracts to Josh Norman (29), Janoris Jenkins (28), Alex Mack (31), Damon Harrison (28) and Coby Fleener (28) all have players who are reaching the end of their prime. With a window of physical prime of only about 4 or 5 years, two years is a huge difference.

Lessons learned

The Eagles know these problems well. Nnamdi Asomugha was signed to a new team, a new scheme and in his age 30 season, and other Dream Team members Jason Babin and Cullen Jenkins were 31 and 30, respectively. Though they were only 27, Byron Maxwell and DeMarco Murray changed teams and scheme and were paid to perform as top players at their positions even though they only had one year as a starter.

In his return to running the Eagles front office, Howie Roseman has made contract extensions a priority. Lane Johnson, Zach Ertz and Fletcher Cox all got extensions for their age 26 season that put them among the top paid players at their positions. Though they have a new coach, Johnson retains the same position coach and with it same basic scheme, and Ertz is now in an offense that helped make Travis Kelce a Pro Bowler. They have a familiarity of teammates, are in their primes, and are in coaching situations that should benefit them.

This emphasis on resigning from with in is not an exlusive one though. New signings Rodney McLeod and Brandon Brooks are changing teams and scheme, but at 26 and 27, respectively, they are getting them in prime years. And while they are among the highest paid players at their positions, as a right guard and strong safety, they are not expected to be linchpin players.

Fletcher Cox already is a linchpin player, and now he'll be an Eagle for years, giving him the opportunity to make himself an iconic one.

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