Why did the Eagles release Fletcher Cox?

PHILADELPHIA, PA – DECEMBER 26: Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon and Philadelphia Eagles defensive tackle Fletcher Cox (91) chat during the game between the New York Giants and the Philadelphia Eagles on December 26, 2021 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire)

The Philadelphia Eagles shocked the world today by releasing Fletcher Cox. However, this move is a lot more complicated than it seems at first glance.

Cap Space implications

The main reason behind this was release was all about the money. Fletcher Cox was signed to a meaty contract extension a few years ago and Howie Roseman has done all he could to delay that inevitable monstrous payday, prorating bonuses, and restructuring where possible. Ultimately, Cox carried a cap-hit of around $14M this offseason, and moving on from him would’ve been a chore for both buyer and seller.

Cox is coming off of a pretty bumpy 2021 campaign. Playing in a different role under Jonathan Gannon, Cox was very vocal about the lack of blitzing that his new defensive coordinator brought to the table. His production tailed off outside of a few nice games against very weak NFC East teams and his place in the pecking order seemed clear – as a supporting act to the new shiny toy in Javon Hargrave.

With that said, the whole situation is a bit messy. Cox was dangled to interested parties at last year’s NFL trade deadline (more on that later), but the most recent restructure meant that Howie’s hands were tied barring a miracle.

The Eagles released Cox with a post-June 1st designation. Doing this meant that there’s no immediate cap-hit to take on as the dead cap money by then essentially evaporates. Cox’s cap-hit will remain the same as if he was still a part of the team, costing them around $15M. However, when June 1st passes, the only weight remaining will be the prorated bonus of the contract.

In overly simplistic terms, the Eagles will pay Cox now and get a refund later, saving themselves around $5M.

This contract is an absolute mess to try and work out. So much so that the guys at OverTheCap made a 25-minute video detailing the recent restructure. It’s definitely worth a watch.

But what happens next?

Did they really say goodbye?

The intent here seems to be to bring Fletch back on a cheaper deal. The fact that there hasn’t been a massive song and dance about the release of Fletcher Cox on social media from the team, his teammates, and other NFL members, pushes me to believe that this is the case. Fletcher Cox is a future Hall of Famer and one of the best Eagles draft picks of all time. There is no way he would just be pushed out into the cold without an emotional ovation.

The Eagles should have around $15M up-front that they can now use to sign Cox to a new deal. It may be that they use that money to sign him to one/two-year deal with far more guaranteed money. This is what Roseman was putting off and if he’s given Cox his word that all of that money he’s earned is finally coming his way instead of being moved around constantly, I’m sure Cox would honor Roseman’s word and hang tight while the Eagles work it out.

If we do a see a new deal, expect Cox to receive a hefty sum of guaranteed money. Only half of his previous contract was guaranteed and most of it was lobbed into prorated bonuses. Expect this deal to maybe include $8-10M guaranteed with a few bonuses.

PHILADELPHIA, PA – DECEMBER 13: Philadelphia Eagles Defensive Tackle Fletcher Cox (91) heads to the locker room before the game between the New Orleans Saints and Philadelphia Eagles on December 13, 2020 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire)

Howie’s done this before

Let’s not forget that in 2020, when the Eagles were starved of CB depth, they released Cre’Von LeBlanc, only to bring him back one day later.

The Birds had just claimed Justin Huntley off waivers and needed an open roster spot. Instead of cutting a player who would hit the waiver wire, they released Captain Cre’Von, who would hit the open market. They did so with a gentleman’s agreement that they would bring him back one day later when a roster spot opened again, allowing them to smoothly bring on Huntley (was 100% worth it in the end…..)without risking losing another player on the waiver wire.

At the time, this was absolutely absurd, but it made sense when all was explained.

When Roseman was actively seeking to trade Fletcher Cox, he also told reporters that he had informed the defensive tackle of every update and that this was very much a joint venture. If the two are working hand-in-hand, with Roseman wanting to honor the Eagles legend, then it’s hard to imagine much has changed over the past few months.

Bottom line: Barring an exceptional circumstance, we should expect to see Fletcher Cox back with the Eagles next year.

Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire