So much for the Fletcher Cox trade rumors.
Fletcher Cox was released by the #Eagles with a post-June 1 designation, sources say. At 4p, $18 million would have become fully guaranteed. Cox is now a free agent but the team and his representatives continue to have discussions about a possible return.— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) March 17, 2022
The note about Cox potentially returning (on a new deal) is interesting and bears monitoring. But, as a free agent, Cox is now available to sign with any team in the NFL. Thus, his return isn’t necessarily guaranteed.
We wrote the following about Cox’s outlook earlier this month:
REVIEW: Entering the 2021 season, arguments were being made for the Eagles to trade Cox. Despite this, Howie Roseman doubled down on the veteran defender by rather unwisely restructuring his contract to create more cap space in the short-term. Cox got off to a slow start last year while openly conveying that he wasn’t exactly thrilled with his role in Jonathan Gannon’s defense. There was talk of the Eagles “aggressively shopping” Cox ahead of last year’s NFL trade deadline but the restructure basically left Philly stuck with his contract. Cox did have some good moments down the stretch in 2021 but he was hardly the vintage version of himself. He ultimately posted the second-lowest sack total of his career and missed making the Pro Bowl for the first time since 2014.
OUTLOOK: The mechanics of the Eagles moving on from Cox this offseason aren’t exactly simple. I mean, it took a 25 minute and 34 second video from Over The Cap to explain how the Eagles trading or cutting him could impact Philly’s cap situation. The Eagles do have avenues to moving him but the guess here is the Birds end up holding on to Cox because they won’t receive an enticing trade offer that justifies a large dead cap number. In theory, Cox should still have some gas left in the tank entering his age 32 season. But, as we often point out here at BGN, there’s a lot of wear-and-tear on his body. Consider that Cox has logged 2,037 more career snaps than Brandon Graham, who is two years older than Cox and entered the NFL two seasons before him. Cox is hardly a bum at this stage but he’s just not the impact player the Eagles are paying him to be. He’s logged just 4.5 sacks in his last 22 games despite being the NFL’s eighth-highest paid interior defender. Not ideal.
As you can see, a straight up release wasn’t a scenario that we or anyone else realistically envisioned.
Assuming Cox doesn’t return, well, that’s a pretty significant development. He was obviously a very good and impactful player for most of his Eagles career. He was the best player on the team’s Super Bowl-winning roster in 2017. It’ll be weird to see him gone after he’s been such a mainstay since the Eagles selected him with the No. 12 overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft.
Cox’s departure would certainly emphasize the need to add more interior defensive line talent. The Eagles can reasonably enter the 2022 season with Javon Hargrave and Milton Williams as their starters. The former is coming off a Pro Bowl season while the latter showed some encouraging potential as a rookie. The depth behind those guys, though? No incredibly inspiring options there ... unless you’re irrationally high on Marlon Tuipulotu, Marvin Wilson, and/or Renell Wren.
Getting Cox back at on a more manageable contract could be nice but it doesn’t undo some of the damage that’s already been done to the Eagles’ salary cap.
FIRST UPDATE: Regarding said salary cap ramifications, here’s an interpretation from Over The Cap.
For the time being Cox’ 2022 salary cap charge will remain the same as if he was on the roster. I believe that the number is $14,946,820. On June 2nd the only salary cap charge that will remain with the Eagles is the prorated portion of Cox’ salary. I am not 100% sure what that will be. It will either be $12,826,820 or $9,641,409. The difference is the option proration for the option that was not exercised. I can never pinpoint the NFL’s treatment of this. In many cases the credit usually comes the following year but this may be more unique with a June 1. In any event if it is the larger number they will get a cap credit of $3,185,411 in 2023.
For 2023 the dead money should now be $15,359,292. The reason this is much lower than what is shown on OTC is because the option was not exercised and we are in a different league year than when the player was cut. So all that acceleration that is attributable to the bonus should now be gone.
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