There’s reason to be concerned about Philadelphia Eagles DT Fletcher Cox.
It’s hot take season, and I’m coming in with the straight inferno-level heat. While I’m fully aware that the Philadelphia Eagles are only one week into the 2020 season, I’m fully prepared to die on this massive hill I’m about to plant myself on.
So here it is: I’m officially starting to worry about Eagles defensive tackle Fletcher Cox. I’m worried about him now, I’m worried about him moving forward, and I’m worried about his eventual longterm future in the city of Philadelphia.
Now before you all start bombarding my Twitter feed with hellish insults (@DavidEsser_), let me explain where my thought process is stemming from, starting first with the 2018 season.
Cox was a monster in 2018, absolutely dominant in all facets of his game. He finished the regular season with a career-high 10.5 sacks, a career-high 12 TFLs, and a career-high 34 quarterback hits. He was a menace in both the run game and in rushing the QB, and he capped off his campaign being named the 69th best player in all of football.
However, Cox suffered a fairly serious foot injury during the team’s NFC Divisional Round loss that year. He had to undergo pretty invasive surgery over the offseason, withholding him from a lot of the team’s normal practices and workouts. Then as the 2019 preseason began to start, Cox suffered an injury to his toe, limiting his participation in more practices and further exhibition games.
During the 2019 regular season, Cox’s production absolutely plummeted. Whether it was due to some lasting effects from his two injuries, or the lack of production at the DT2 position, Cox saw a drop in statistical performance at almost every level. His sack numbers dropped to 3.5 (his worst season total since way back in 2013), and his TFLs and QB hits sharply declined as well.
Again, a lot of people were quick to pinpoint this to injuries and/or the lack of appropriate talent alongside him. Both of these theories may be equally true, but when you pay a defensive tackle $20+ million a season, you’re expecting him to carry some of the load regardless of the circumstance.
Fast forward to 2020 and the Philadelphia Eagles were lauded for having one of the best DT rotations in all of football. Former Steeler Javon Hargrave was signed to a shiny free agent deal this past offseason (we’ll get to that later), and Malik Jackson was returning from injury. While Hargrave would ultimately miss Week 1 due to his own personal injury knock, the partnership of Cox and Jackson was seemingly going to wreck havoc on an abysmal Washington O-Line.
Well, the game came and went, and Cox recorded zero sacks, zero QB hits, and just 0.5 TFLs. Despite going up against one of the least experienced O-Lines in all of football, Cox was completely neutralized.
Now I get it, it was only one game. However, it’s really hard to not start connecting some of the dots when it comes to Cox’s future in midnight green. The team is projected to be anywhere from $50-70 million over the cap in 2021, and Cox is set to count for 11.53% of that number. As much of a Philadelphia Eagles legend as he is, at some point one has to wonder just how much you’re willing to pay for a guy who might just be on the decline.
I’m not promising that Cox necessarily is regressing, but lower body injuries to someone that heavy can really be career-altering. His foot injury was serious, and you saw just how hard it was for him to operate at 100% in 2019. Even with a solid DT2 next to him against Washington here in 2020, he really struggled to get any sort of lower body drive against fairly bad offensive linemen.
Additionally the Hargrave signing always struck me as a tad odd (I told you we would circle back to this). While finding a solid DT2 is important, surely paying $39 million for one when you’re already facing cap hell is a bit overkill, is it not? The more and more I thought about it, the more and more it looks to me like they paid Hargrave to be the team’s DT1 moving forward, as opposed to being a really expensive Robin to Cox’s Batman.
Whether we want it to happen or not, it does look like Howie Roseman and the Philadelphia Eagles are headed for a bit of a “re-tool” of sorts in the near future. They’ve already pissed off one Super Bowl legend in Zach Ertz with their refusal to pay him, and I’m not sure if they plan on stopping there. Their championship window is all but closed at this point in time (considering the state of their roster and how bogged down by injuries it is), and at some point, they’re going to have to start parting ways with expensive talent.
Ertz will likely be the first name to go, DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffery will surely follow soon after, and then Cox could be the final domino to fall in what could turn out to be a fairly ugly purge.
It’s hard to imagine life as a Philadelphia Eagles fan without Fletcher Cox, I really do get that. However, it’s also quite hard to ignore all the clues and hints that are pointing to a potential divorce with the star lineman. If he has another year similar to that of 2019, especially considering he is surrounded with legitimate DT talent this go around, I really wouldn’t be surprised if he was a name that popped up in some trade rumors this offseason.