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July 18, 2015

What they're saying: To pay or not pay Fletcher Cox

Eagles NFL
071815FletcherCox Patrick Semansky/AP

Fletcher Cox is awesome and will soon be extremely wealthy... with somebody.

Back in April, the Eagles picked up the fifth-year option on Fletcher Cox's rookie contract, which will keep him under the Eagles' control for the next two seasons. According to overthecap.com, Cox will count for $3,258,563 against the salary cap in 2015, and $7,799,000 against the cap in 2016.

There are plenty of reasons to get a long term deal done with Cox now. To begin, according to old friend Joe Banner, contracts that are done now are going to look small in a few years:

And then of course there's a far more obvious reason to get a deal done -- because Fletcher Cox is awesome. Tommy Lawlor of IgglesBlitz.com thinks the time is now for the Eagles to "pay that man his money."

There is some thought that you don’t pay 3-4 DEs big money. Their job is mostly to 2-gap. Find an athletic DT and move  him to DE, ala Cedric Thornton. You can get several years of good play for minimal money. Go spend big money on LBs since they are the true life blood of the 3-4.
That makes sense in a general way, but there are some players you make exceptions for. The Steelers just gave 3-4 DE Cam Heyward a 5-year deal worth $59.25M. The Pats gave big money to Richard Seymour when he was a star for them. JJ Watt deserves every penny that he gets paid.
I think Cox is a man you pay. He is the Eagles best defensive player. Cox makes the guys around him better because of his ability to eat up blockers and make plays. He can push the pocket and create sack opportunities for the OLBs. He can disrupt run plays with penetration and create easy tackle situations for other defenders. Chip Kelly has referred to him as the team’s defensive MVP in the past.
Losing Cox wouldn’t be the same as letting Mychal Kendricks go or losing Thornton. Those guys are good starters, but they aren’t the kind of talents you build a defense around.

I agree. Cox is clearly the Eagles' best defender, and a difference maker. Tommy also has a highlight reel of Cox that is worth checking out. Cox had modest stats in terms of sack totals, but the tape shows an extremely disruptive player.

However, for the sake of playing devil's advocate, I do wonder if the Eagles would rather hold off paying Cox until next offseason partly because he's an intriguing trade chip. During the 2015 NFL Draft, the Eagles tried to trade up both with the Tennessee Titans and Tampa Bay Buccaneers to select Marcus Mariota. Cox was reportedly part of the package the Eagles presented to the Titans, depending on which trade offer you believe. In other words, there's precedent that the Eagles have been willing to deal Cox. And Cox aside, as Chip Kelly has shown, he'll pretty much deal anyone.

If you pay Cox now, you essentially cannot trade him because you'll take a huge salary cap hit based on the lucrative guaranteed money he would be certain to command. However, if you hang onto Cox for one season, you can trade him with absolutely no penalty whatsoever (via overthecap.com):

None

To be clear, I'm not saying the Eagles should, would, or want to trade Cox, or that it's even a good idea. However, if they hang tight this season without extending him, the Eagles have the option to deal Cox next offseason if trading him for some other valuable asset made sense.

Chip Kelly's seat the hottest in the division?

Todd Archer of ESPN thinks Chip Kelly is on the hot seat.

After being on the hot seat every year since he took over, I think it’s fair to say it’s not Jason Garrett. (And I do think we all overstated how hot his seat actually was.) It’s easy to say Tom Coughlin or Jerry Reese with the Giants, too. But I’m going with Chip Kelly. The Eagles' moves this offseason have been all about Kelly. The trade of LeSean McCoy was at first called a salary-cap move, but then the Eagles put big money into DeMarco Murray and solid money into Ryan Mathews. I’m not ready to say Kiko Alonso will be a star the way McCoy is a star. The trade for Sam Bradford is a huge risk considering the quarterback’s injury history. They have taken an interesting route with their receivers. If this doesn’t work out for the Eagles, then Kelly will have nobody to blame but himself.

There's no other way to say this, but that's dumb. Jeffrey Lurie trusted Kelly enough to give him complete control of the team this offseason. You can agree or disagree with Kelly's moves all you want, but his seat is firmly set on "ass massage" right now. Meanwhile, Tom Coughlin is 13-19 the last two seasons, and the Redskins really couldn't have been much worse last year under Jay Gruden.

Follow Jimmy on Twitter: @JimmyKempski

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