Eagles legend Fletcher Cox officially retires: ‘I wish this was an April fool’s joke’


Eagles’ legend Fletcher Cox strolled to the podium wearing a shirt emblazoned with the word “gods” on it, perhaps sending a subliminal message about his place in the pantheon of Philadelphia sports history. The 33-year-old was there to officially announce his retirement from football after 12 incredible seasons, all of them in a midnight green jersey.

Cox, a bit out of character from his serious on-field persona, started his farewell speech with a joke …

“I wish this was an April Fool’s joke but it’s not. It’s real,” Cox told reporters. “First of all, I want to thank Mr. Lurie for changing my life back in 2012 and, obviously, been here 12-plus years in the City of Philadelphia. Changed my life, changed my family’s life, and everybody around me.”

Eagles fletcher cox
Philadelphia Eagles defensive tackle Fletcher Cox (91) reacts after the Dallas Cowboys turnover on downs during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Nov. 5, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

The former first-round pick (12th overall in 2012) went on to thank Howie Roseman, mentioning how the Eagles general manager traded up three spots to grab him — and then shouted out ex-defensive line coach Jim Washburn, team president Don Smolenksi, and director of security “Big” Dom DiSandro as the entire Cox family watched from the front row. It was an emotional scene for the man who ranks No. 5 on the franchise’s all-time sack list with 69.5.

“The City of Philly is tough to play for and playing in Philly you got to have thick skin especially being drafted in the first round so the City of Philadelphia I thank you a whole lot,” Cox said. “I’ve given the game all I can give, and the game has given to me back. I’ve been a part of the highs, I’ve been a part of the lows in this league and I’ve enjoyed it all.”

Former Eagles’ first round pick gets special shout out

PHILADELPHIA, PA – SEPTEMBER 27: Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Derek Barnett (96) looks on during the game between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Philadelphia Eagles on September 27, 2020 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire)

Derek Barnett was a lightning rod for criticism during his seven seasons in Philly, mostly due to his failure to live up to the first-round hype. If you thought the flowers for Barnett were strange, you don’t know the whole story behind their unforeseen struggles off the field. Barnett lost his older brother after a drunk driver killed him in 2018; Cox’s older brother fell victim to a heart attack in 2014. Those two tragic events, although unrelated and years apart, forced an unbreakable bond.

“The reason that Derek Barnett has a special place in my heart is because Derek and I share a similar story, and we often talk about that story,” Cox said. “You can’t thank him enough because two guys right beside one another in the locker room … he’s always been a part of what I never thought I had as a teammate.”

“I was there for Derek. To lean on his shoulder, to tell him I knew what he was going through, to let him know that no matter what anybody says that it’s going to get better, it don’t. He trusted me and knew I had already been through that, and that’s why we have so much respect for each other.”

The pride of Yazoo City, Mississippi also had words for his long-time teammate Brandon Graham who is returning for his 15th NFL season. With a strong leader like Cox out of the locker room, someone needs to step up and corral the team’s most uncontrollable trash-talker.

“I think we got to get Big Dom to keep him in check,” Cox joked. “Or put like a buzzer or something to put on him and every time he starts talking it buzzes him and it vibrates.”

Pro Football Hall of Fame Calling?

PHILADELPHIA, PA – SEPTEMBER 27: Philadelphia Eagles defensive tackle Fletcher Cox (91) celebrates a sack during the game between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Philadelphia Eagles on September 27, 2020 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire)

There are only 38 total players who played defensive line with gold busts in Canton. Reggie White and his 198 career sacks (124 in Eagles green) is one of them. Will Fletcher Cox be the next to get the call? Maybe.

“Me and Howie [Roseman] just talked about that,” Cox said of the Hall of Fame. “I got get into the Eagles Hall of Fame first so that might help me.”

While his first goal is getting inducted into the Eagles Hall of Fame, the idea of gaining entry into the bigger one weighs heavily on his mind.

“Obviously that’s something I think about,” Cox said. “Apparently that’s all in somebody else’s hands now but hopefully one day, a few years from now, I’ll be putting on a gold jacket and I’ll be looking forward to it, and I’ll have the same exact family here and we’ll all be celebrating.”

AP Photo/Matt Slocum