Take a deep breath, the Eagles are officially whole again. Fletcher Cox won’t be part of an acrimonious hold out this summer after inking a deal worth a reported $103 million over six seasons. Instead, the newly minted richest non-quarterback in the NFL will be one very happy camper.
Cox’s deal is enormous, richer than every player on the Eagles in average salary but Sam Bradford, by only a few hundred grand, and nearly double the amount of guaranteed money Lane Johnson re-signed for after pulling in a record $63 million in guarantees.
NFL contracts are heavily front-loaded, and total money means absolutely nothing other than giving an agent the ability to tell his other clients — and future prospects — that he just got a one-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle $103 million. The guaranteed money is all that matters.
And yet, the guarantee is enormous, too, working itself out to more than 60 percent of overall money, a record in total dollars for anyone on the defensive side of the ball, ever.
Given the report of a $26-million signing bonus, which spreads out over the life of the contract to just about $4.3 million per season, the remaining guaranteed money is $37 million, which likely means the deal is structured as a two, maybe three years guaranteed with some sort of hefty roster bonus either between the first two years or after the second. Given Cox is just 25 years old and doesn’t turn 26 until December, it would be a huge surprise if he sees the end of this Eagles contract without renegotiating the last two years, and maybe even the last three depending on his performance and the way things get structured. So we can call it a six-year deal for $103 million if we want — and his agent wants — but it’s probably more like a three or four year deal worth $63 million.
Regardless of the actual length, it’s a great contract for Cox. What on Earth was his agent originally asking for, if that’s the deal the Eagles agreed upon after a tense, if not tenuous, off-season to this point?
It seems now everybody can start dancing; in Philly, and elsewhere in the NFL.
Von Miller has reportedly broken off talks with the Denver Broncos on a new deal this week and will be very interested to see the breakdown of the deal Cox has signed. Cox may be the best player on the Eagles, but Miller may the best player on the team that just won a Super Bowl. Per ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Miller was offered $58 million in guaranteed money from Denver, which included $38.5 in the first two years of the deal. Cox, per Schefter, will get $40 million in the first two years of his deal.
And the whole “richest non-QB deal ever” angle is probably Cox’s agent spiking the football a little. According to NFL.com‘s quickly updated list of the league’s richest contracts for 2016, Cox ranks 20th in the NFL. Ndamukong Suh ranks 13th.
Now, those numbers are for just this coming year, but Suh signed a contract with the Dolphins before last season that was $114 million over six years, with just under $60 in guarantees. Suh is slated to make $19 million this coming season.
Right below Cox is Olivier Vernon of the New York Giants, who signed a free agent deal this offseason for five years, $85 million with $52.5 million in guarantees. Cox got one more year, but the per-year average — not that it works that way, but for math’s sake — is the same.
Cox is right in line with other top defenders who didn’t cash in during free agency as well. Justin Houston got six years and $101 million, with $52.5 million guaranteed from the Chiefs last year, while J.J. Watt — widely viewed as the best defensive player in the league today — is on a six-year, $100 million deal with nearly $52 million in guarantees he signed in 2014.
Miami is already trying to restructure Suh’s monster deal, and the Texans restructured Watt’s deal a year after he signed it, converting salary to bonus to free up cap space. Cox’s deal will surely be structured the same way, where he will get his money no matter what, but the team can save a ton of cap space by paying him in bonuses rather than salary.
It’s a great deal for Cox and a good deal for the Eagles to make their best defensive player happy. The Eagles defense could develop into something special, and with new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz in tow, there’s another big reason why it was important to lock Cox up now.
It’s hard to imagine that a guy making $103 million over six years was a bargain, but that might be the case with Cox. The Eagles sure hope this will be a contract that works out for everyone. With rookie quarterback Carson Wentz waiting in the wings, locking key players up on long term deals is vital to making the Eagles a contender sooner and later.