There’s a very real possibility that All-Pro defensive tackle Fletcher Cox has played his final game in a Philadelphia Eagles uniform.
Cox, 33, is set to become an unrestricted free agent after general manager Howie Roseman and the Eagles invested significant resources in the NFL Draft in recent seasons, adding Jordan Davis and Jalen Carter while watching Milton Williams emerge as a quality rotational player in his third season.
Despite Philadelphia’s young players making major and immediate strides in their development, Pro Football Focus lists Cox as the one free agent that the Eagles “can’t afford to lose.”
“The Eagles’ collapse to close out the 2023 season was one of the more bizarre developments over the second half of the year,” PFF’s Brad Spielberger writes. “But veteran leader Fletcher Cox enjoyed a bounce-back campaign in Philadelphia with a massive role despite recent draft additions Jalen Carter, Jordan Davis and Milton Williams.
“Cox’s 43 total pressures and 18 combined sacks and quarterback hits were his most since 2019.”
In his 12th NFL season since being chosen by the Eagles in the first-round of the 2012 NFL Draft, Cox produced 33 total tackles, five sacks, 17 quarterback hits, and three tackles for loss, remaining a steady force as an interior pass-rusher.
The dilemma Roseman and the Eagles face this offseason is balancing the benefits of retaining a consistent contributor and veteran locker room presence with clearing a path for young players they invested in to take on a more significant role.
Fletcher Cox Addresses His Future
Cox hoisted the Lombardi Trophy once and appeared in two Super Bowls in an Eagles uniform, but faces an uncertain future.
Given his age and the young players surrounding him in the defensive line room, Cox understands that the 2023 campaign might have been his last go-round in Philadelphia.
“You just see where the chips fall,” Cox told reporters on locker clean out day. “Obviously, they drafted some young talent, and those guys are really good. They’ve come a long way since they got here. Jordan [Davis] and Jalen [Carter], they did a really good job of taking on the game, learning how to be a pro.”
Two of those young players believe that it is their time to take the baton from Cox and run with it, beginning in 2024.
“That’s something me and Jalen [Carter] was talking about earlier. We have to take care of this team,” Jordan Davis said, via CBS Sports. “Since Fletch is gone, I think Milton [Williams] is the oldest player on our D-Line. We’re a very young team, at least on the defensive line.”
Davis, Carter, and Williams combined for 120 total tackles with nine sacks, but might each be counted on to play a more significant role next season.
Can Eagles Afford to Re-Sign Fletcher Cox?
If the Eagles are even intent on re-signing Cox, it may take some concessions on the six-time Pro Bowler’s part.
Philadelphia enters the offseason with approximately $18.7 million in cap space, and marquee players such as Cox, center Jason Kelce, defensive end Brandon Graham, running back D’Andre Swift, veteran linebacker Shaq Leonard, and guard Jack Driscoll among the team’s 19 free agents, not everyone will be returning.
Roseman has developed a reputation as one of the best managers of the cap in the NFL, and will likely need to put that acumen to the test this offseason in a big way.
Like Heavy.com’s content? Be sure to follow us.
This article was originally published on Heavy.com