Thoughts on Fletcher Cox’ Contract Extension

After a year of contentious contract discussions, the Eagles and their new front office has ended any problems between the Eagles and Fletcher Cox by signing Cox to a massive $102.6 million contract extension that contains over $60 million in injury guarantees. Based on a report by Pro Football Talk we can look at the contract in a bit more critical manner to see just how it ranks in a few different metrics compared to those of the other big defensive players.

He $17.1 million APY will make Cox the 2nd highest paid defensive player in the NFL, just surpassing Olivier Vernon’s contract with the Giants. From a cap perspective the contract will carry a value of $15.771 million which is a bit more affordable than those free agent contracts.

PlayerTypeYearsAge at SigningTotalAPYEffective ValueEffective APYInflation Adjusted APY
Fletcher CoxExtension626$102,600,000$17,100,000$110,399,000$15,771,286$17,100,000
Ndamukong SuhUFA628$114,375,000$19,062,500$114,375,000$19,062,500$20,657,694
Olivier VernonUFA526$85,000,000$17,000,000$85,000,000$17,000,000$17,000,000
Marcell DareusExtension625$95,100,000$15,850,000$103,160,000$14,737,143$17,176,364
Justin HoustonFranchise626$101,000,000$16,833,333$101,000,000$16,833,333$18,241,985

There are  few different ways to look at the guarantees. Just from a paper standpoint, Cox did not make out as well as some of the others in the market.

PlayerTotal Guarantee% GuaranteedFull Guarantee% Full GuaranteeNew Guarantee
Fletcher Cox$63,299,00061.7%$36,299,00035.40%$55,500,000
Ndamukong Suh$59,955,00052.4%$59,955,00052.40%$59,955,000
Olivier Vernon$52,500,00061.8%$40,000,00047.10%$52,500,000
Marcell Dareus$60,000,00063.1%$42,900,00045.10%$51,940,000
Justin Houston$52,500,00052.0%$32,500,00032.20%$52,500,000

The initial guarantee on the Cox contract trails all but Houston in the big defensive contract category both in terms of the total amount and percentage of contract that is guaranteed. While he did get the largest injury guarantee of any player once you factor in the fact that he already had $7.8 million guaranteed that number does drop to $55.5 million. That’s still second in the NFL, but in terms of being some major bright spot for Von Miller as some suggested I don’t see that at all as the numbers are more in line with the market.

Where Cox makes out tremendously well is the guarantee and bonus structure. Guarantees get a significant amount of press, but there are ways to virtually guarantee contracts through smart structuring and that is what Cox did here. Cox received a $26 million signing bonus and a $6 million option bonus which creates a huge dead money charge if the Eagles were to think of releasing him.

The $32 million ties Dareus for the most friendly contract structure and is more or less $7 million more than anyone else in the group at the time they signed their contract. These kind of signing bonuses for a non-QB are tremendous and in both cases the players did great for themselves.

Cox makes out even better with early vesting dates that make it more difficult for the Eagles to consider releasing him. His 2018 and part of his 2019 salary will become fully guaranteed in 2017 which is a major win for the player. So even though the on paper full guarantee is not anything record setting everything else in the deal is more or less terrific for Cox.

In terms of year by year cash, again I don’t see this moving the market for a Miller. While it is another data point to consider its not something that completely turns the market on its head.

PlayerYear 0Year 1Year 2Year 3Year 4Year 5Year 6

Cox was not able to get the same up front payment terms as Dareus and will be right in line with Vernon over the first two new years of the contract. Cox will take over the second spot in year 3 and he will slightly maintain an edge over Vernon in year 5. The bigger difference between Cox and Vernon is that Vernon will be a free agent after 5 years while Cox will be under contract an additional season. That is probably not a big concern for Cox though.

I think at this point it is safe to say that the Vernon deal signing by the Giants this year is clearly the market defining deal. Suh is still an outlier but the numbers here are designed to slowly build on Vernon’s deal. Vernon’s contract was a major leap from the Justin Houston contract. There is a bit of Dareus in here but that contract also remains an outlier of sorts with the up front cash.

Cox’ contract should become the next jumping point for the next wave of extensions or free agents not named Miller. This contract should further bolster Muhammad Wilkerson’s demands on a new contract with the Jets and I cant see that contract happening.  Wilkersons in the most immediate contract on the horizon.

The Cox contract will further the Eagles move into superstar pay strategy that is currently used by the Packers and Seahawks. When looking at the Eagles moves this offseason I think it further justifies why they did what they did to draft a quarterback. While you can defer cap charges, as they did here, for a year or two eventually there comes a time where you can not do that. If you are forced into paying a veteran $18-$20M a year it makes it very difficult to handle a roster like Philadelphia’s.

With a rookie QB a team can possibly get $20 million in play for a $7 million salary. That $13 million benefit can be spread around the roster so you can maintain a high priced roster for a few seasons. By the time the rookie is signed to a market value extension most of the big priced players from today will be gone. Chase Daniel remains the failsafe in the event Carson Wentz fails so you don’t waste a high priced roster because of the QB. So while a good portion of the benefit goes to the backup I can understand the logic in the construction.

The Eagles may be a better case study than the other teams with expensive rosters since they are the one with the big questions at quarterback. If Wentz is great then they wont be any different than Seattle, but if he struggles it will give a better idea of how a non-great QB team can do with a roster that is in theory very good.

In light of the money the Eagles are paying Cox it is hard to justify not doing this contract last year. All I can think is that Chip Kelly, who looked to move Cox as part of a package to Tennessee, did not see Cox as a future piece for the team.  Not only would the Eagles have saved a few dollars by signing prior to free agency this year but they would have been able to reduce the cap charges even further. My assumption is that the guys in the Eagles front office probably wanted to do this deal last season but were told not to do so. We’ll have to wait and see if that was a mistake.