Fletcher Cox is arguably the most important player on the Eagles defense especially on the defensive line paired with Bennie Logan and Cedric Thornton. Cox was named 2nd Team All Pro last year and honestly should have been named to the Pro Bowl. He will be entering his third season in the 3-4 defense at the end position after transitioning from a 4-3 defensive tackle coming out of Mississippi State. Cox is set to make a million and change in base salary for 2015 while the Eagles already picked up his 7 million dollar option for 2016. He was bantied about in trade rumors during the offseason for the likes of Marcus Mariota. I’m glad the Eagles held onto him and hopeful they can lock him up long term. Here’s a look at a few guys similar to Cox and the contracts they received:Calais Campbell (Cardinals)
Before the 2012 season, Campbell signed a 5 year $55 million deal with Arizona before playing his fifth season with the franchise. His deal included a $15 million signing bonus along with $17 million in guaranteed coin. His base salary for the upcoming season is $9 million. Campbell is one of the best 3-4 defensive ends in football and can also slide inside as well making him a valuable asset. He anchors that Cardinals front now that veteran Darnell Dockett has moved to San Francisco. Campbell recorded 7 sacks in 2014 while only playing 12 games due to a leg injury. He had 9 sacks in 2013 and 6.5 sacks in 2012 after signing his deal.
Corey Liuget (Chargers)
Liuget signed a 5 year $51 million extension with San Diego last Tuesday June 9th. He was drafted 18th overall in the 2011 draft by the Chargers out of Illinois. Liuget has missed only one game during his four season in powder blue coming in his rookie season. He received a $7.5 million signing bonus along with $30 million guaranteed. His base salary for this upcoming year will be a measly one million. The annual base salary jumps to $8 million in the 2017 and 2018 seasons respectively. Statistically his best season was in 2012 when he registered 7 sacks. In 2013 he notched 5.5 sacks and last season he dropped down to 4.5 sacks. Sometimes with 3-4 defensive ends stats like sacks don’t tell the whole story as to what type of player or season they had. Liuget is far and away the best player on the Chargers defensive line surrounded by mostly journeymen. You can argue he is the most important player on the entire defense as well.
Muhammad Wilkerson (Jets)
The Temple product is heading into his final season with Gang Green and is set to become an unrestricted free agent in 2016. Big Mo looks to be heading elsewhere after this season as the negotiations with the Jets front office are not going well. The selection of defensive linemen Leonard Williams does not bode well for Wilkerson staying in New York either. New head coach Todd Bowles and GM Mike Maccagnan did not draft Wilkerson so that could play a factor as well. He’s set to make $6.9 million as base salary in 2015. Wilkerson is one of the best defensive linemen in this league and a budding superstar in my opinion. He recorded 6 sacks last season on a Jets team lacking in outside pass rush he supplied it. In 2013 he recorded 10.5 sacks which is phenomenal for a 3-4 defensive end. He had 5 sacks in 2012 as well. I believe Wilkerson could easily make the transition to 4-3 defensive tackle if he hits the open market which is very possible at this point. While I don’t believe he’s in line for a Gerald McCoy 7 year $98 million type pay day, I do think he can pull down in the range of 5 years for $75-$80 million. Fletcher Cox’s potential contract with the Eagles could be affected by what kind of figures Wilkerson lands.
While Cox’s sack totals the past two years in the 3-4 scheme have not been eye popping numbers, 4 sacks in 2014 and 3 in 2013, his value goes well beyond the statistical categories. As I mentioned earlier it’s difficult to use just numbers like stats or tackles to judge the productivity of 3-4 defensive linemen particularly ends. Cox does a great job of taking on double teams and holding his ground at the point of attack which gives the defenders behind him greater opportunities to make plays. You can also not undervalue his ability to shift inside when the Eagles go 4-3 in clear passing downs. He was the most consistent defensive player last season and honestly the most consistent player on the team. I expect another All Pro caliber season from Cox which will force the Eagles to lock him up long term, as they should. I’m looking for Cox to land a deal in the range of 5 years, $60 million which is a great value for the franchise and the player.
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