Before the start of NFL Free Agency, I will attempt to break down as many of the Eagles’ free agents as possible. Each article will include stats, the player’s strengths and weaknesses, and my overall thoughts on whether the player should be re-signed or not. All rankings only include players with at least 20% of the snaps this year. All statistics are via Pro Football Focus unless mentioned otherwise! PREVIOUSLY: Javon Hargrave review | James Bradberry review | TJ Edwards review
Fletcher Cox’s stats are really interesting. It seems mad that the Eagles had so many talented defensive tackles yet Cox played the 14th-highest amount of snaps at 32 years old! You wonder how productive he could have been on a reduced snap count. I’ve seen a lot of comments this year about Cox’s decline as a pass rusher, that the pass rushing stats are actually very good. 11th in total pressures and 7th in sacks is very good for a 32-year-old. 9 sacks feel slightly lucky based on the pass-rushing productivity, but you can’t argue that the pass-rushing numbers are good.
+ He got better as the season went on and his snaps reduced, especially towards the end of the regular season.
Cox has come under some criticism but I said last week he was great and this was easily his best game of the year. He was a force in the run game and the lower snap count seems to be helping him. pic.twitter.com/oUMAKrOMvJ— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) November 30, 2022
+ Has the versatility to line up all along the defensive line. He is a rare talent who can still be productive as a defensive end and a nose tackle in certain situations
Eagles defense all22 thread vs Steelers. This is a brutal sack to take on the first drive. Eagles line up with Reddick/Sweat to the same side and Cox as the EDGE. We haven't seen a lot of stunts but it's good to see it's a tool the Eagles can use in the future if needed! pic.twitter.com/bP4LaiRLG1— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) November 1, 2022
Eagles All22 Defense thread vs Giants. Not been his best year but Cox has been really good the past few weeks and how many DTs can line up at EDGE and do this?! Eagles playing straight up press man cover 1 on 3rd down too btw! Becoming a common theme the past few weeks. pic.twitter.com/35udEVlwgI— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) November 30, 2021
That is a hell of a 5 man front to rush the QB. From left to right: Sweat, Reddick, Hargrave, Graham & Cox. Phew. That's a tough matchup for any offensive line. Combination of speed, power and quickness. pic.twitter.com/i10gAhg2uj— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) November 30, 2022
#4 This is interesting. Chiefs 3 & out came after a -2 yard 1st down run with Eagles playing Cox at NT & Graham next to him. Weirdly the only time I saw this and it worked! TJ Edwards and Hargrave make the tackle but Maddox run blitz is key. They had to win on 1st down more often pic.twitter.com/5Di51Kn5fn— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) February 14, 2023
+ Really good rate of turning pressures into sacks last year.
Reddick is so disruptive. I liked his tape in the off-season but he's exceeded my expectations. Fantastic rush by him and Cox cleans up. Eagles route distribution in the secondary is outstanding as always. When you can get pressure consistently with 4 it is such an advantage. pic.twitter.com/Hyfw5NxZLg— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) December 14, 2022
+ He’s still very quick. He can get moved and redirect quickly in the run game to make a play on the ball carrier
Watch TJ Edwards charge immediately at the TE here and take on the block in order to prevent him from double teaming Cox. That allows Cox to win and help Slay tackle Henry. Edwards gets downhill so quickly and he helps the Eagles here despite not contributing to the stat sheet. pic.twitter.com/cn4M7x8arA— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) December 6, 2022
+ He may be older but he is still very athletic for a defensive tackle
The Eagles secondary once again does a fantastic job passing off routes and forcing Tannehill to take off. The late safety rotation is great. I could watch the secondary play all day. Cox is still a pretty incredible athlete because Tannehill can move and he contains him well! pic.twitter.com/Vx0hJG2IL2— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) December 6, 2022
+ He can still rush the passer in a number of different ways as a defensive tackle. There is always a place for players who can rush the quarterback and get pressure consistently.
Let's end on a high... because we did win! 5 man front with Reddick dropping. Totally ok with that as it's unpredictable for the defense and it leaves Cox/Graham with 1on1 on the backside and it looked like old times! Great rushes by both of them. pic.twitter.com/c9RJEPcpd0— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) September 13, 2022
He's faced some criticism this year (deservedly so in the case of his pass rushing), so it's nice to end with a positive snap from Cox on the 4th down at the end of the game. Hopefully less snaps will keep him fresher and we can see some more of this because the DL is stacked. pic.twitter.com/3N676mYoXA— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) November 23, 2022
Eagles bring a CB blitz and they don't have to because the front 4 win anyway. The Giants thought their tackles could survive one-on-one without any help and they couldn't. Reddick and Sweat were too good. Cox has had an excellent month and is clearly enjoying playing less snaps. pic.twitter.com/mqHret9v2L— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) December 14, 2022
- Struggled too often in run defense this year. Couldn’t get off one-on-one blocks or get into the backfield.
#9 Yikes, this is rough. Once again, this is yet another time where 2 players take the same gap. Either Davis is wrong or CGJ is wrong. Then Cox/Edwards get blocked easily. If Davis is supposed to command double teams then it didn't work because he had 0 impact on the run game. pic.twitter.com/buNYVbTvVK— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) February 14, 2023
There were a lot of examples of Cox getting moved. Ugh. I know Marlon Tuipulotu isn't great but I do actually think he will be missed if Linval Joseph can't play anymore because Tuipulotu is at least a passable nose tackle. pic.twitter.com/LTK72JXToi— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) November 17, 2022
- Really struggles to anchor at times in run defense and can get completely taken out of a play, not just moved slightly
Sadly, I think it's time for a Fletcher Cox conversation. Everyone talks about his pass rushing numbers but he got moved frequently in this game. He's really not playing well and all of the sudden the Eagles DTs look really light without Jordan Davis. pic.twitter.com/Jnnwn5RxP8— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) November 17, 2022
The TD run was the worst play by the defense. Cox gets moved badly, Maddox is coming across the formation but gets lost, Wallace takes an awful angle and Bradberry gets run by far too easily. pic.twitter.com/dNmYculJVt— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) October 18, 2022
- Will be 33 at the end of next season. His best play is certainly behind him.
- He struggles against double-teams and doesn’t get double-teamed that much anymore
Double team rate at defensive tackle (x) by pass rush win rate at defensive tackle (y) for the 2022 NFL season.— Seth Walder (@SethWalder) January 13, 2023
(ESPN / NFL Next Gen Stats) pic.twitter.com/wXJS0c5CdV
Like Howie Roseman, I am not a fan of losing great Eagle players. But it feels like the time is right for Cox to move on. Cox is still a good player and I think that some of the criticism of him this year was over the top. But, overall, he struggled in run defense and this was a major problem for the Eagles' defense this past season. Additionally, although he did have a high number of sacks and showed that he can still rush the quarterback, there is absolutely no doubt that he benefited from playing with an elite defensive line that enabled him to have a lot of one-on-one matchups.
Spotrac predicts that Cox will earn a 2-year $28m contract, which ranks 8th highest at defensive tackle. This feels pretty accurate, considering he took a 1 year $14m deal with the Eagles last year and the salary cap has once again gone up. There will be NFL teams willing to pay good money for a defensive tackle who can get close to double-digit sacks still. I do not think the Eagles can afford to play Cox with money when they have so many other free agents. I don’t think he should be paid like a top-10 player anymore.
If you are going to prioritize a defensive tackle, there is no doubt in my mind that Javon Hargrave should be the Eagles' priority. However, if Hargrave goes elsewhere, I would not hate a 1 year re-signing for Cox if the money was decent. I think losing both Hargrave and Cox in the same off-season would feel pretty rough.
Fletcher Cox will go down as an Eagle great and I will miss watching him, but this feels like a decision where the Eagles and Howie Roseman have to use their heads and not their hearts.
Should they re-sign? = Sadly, no
Do you want the Eagles to re-sign Fletcher Cox?
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