Cox Embraces the Expectations
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - The game has changed for Fletcher Cox.
And now it's up to the 6-foot-4, 300-pound defensive tackle to make sure he can handle the expectations.
A six-year extension, ostensibly worth $103 million, with upward of $63 million in guarantees as well as a $26 million signing bonus, has turned the ascending Pro Bowl-level player into a high-profile name around the entire NFL.
With that comes those expectations and the fact that Pro Bowl is supposed to turn into All-Pro and if you believe Howie Roseman, even more than that.
"Fletcher has a chance to be one of the great players in the history of this franchise," the Eagles executive vice president of football operations gushed at a press conference Thursday.
"Fletcher Cox is a unique animal," Roseman continued. "Guys with that kind of power, athleticism, character, leadership are hard to find."
Hard enough to find that Roseman knew he would have to break the bank to get his prized possession for the long term.
"The market is what it is," Roseman admitted.We knew we had to get a little uncomfortable this season as well as next season also."
Uncomfortable means the nearly $280 million in guaranteed money Roseman has doled out to various players this offseason, something he says "not only makes (the Eagles) better this year but for a longer period of time."
Sustained success had been a theme for the Eagles this offseason and Roseman believes he has to get the organization back on the path to continuity both on the field and in the front office.
Getting Cox locked up was always part of that plan and Roseman believes having the Mississippi State product in a defense that in theory takes better advantage of his strengths will only make the investment look more prudent.
"Fletcher was really productive in a defense that ideally didn't fit all his best traits," Roseman admitted.
New defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz has a history of getting that most out of interior defensive lineman and many around the league think Cox is ready to really breakout in 2016.
"Well, I think no matter who was here -- and we're excited about Jim and glad he's here. But no matter who was here, they were going to look at our defense and watch the tape and feel pretty good that Fletcher changes the game, and he changes how people block us and how people game plan against us," Roseman said. "But at the same time, understanding that this scheme is predicated on getting pressure, on getting to the quarterback. It's hard to think that his value was going to go down in this game. You look at who Jim's had. He's had [Albert] Haynesworth, he's had [Ndamukong] Suh, he's had [Marcell] Dareus. He's made some guys a lot of money.”
And now you can add Cox to that list because most observers believe his ceiling as a player increases in Schwartz's scheme.
"I don't think I've hit my ceiling yet," Cox agreed. "For me to be the player I want to be, it needs to start on the practice field."
And that starts in late July when Cox will be situated inside next to Bennie Logan while defensive ends Connor Barwin and Vinny Curry handle the edges. With Brandon Graham expected to fit into the end rotation and free-agent pickup Mike Martin have a strong offseason on the interior, the Eagles' defensive line is shaping up as one of the stronger units on the team.
And Cox isn't running away from any of those assumptions.
"I have high expectation for myself," Cox said. "I'm willing to do anything to let this organization win."
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973ESPN.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen