Eagles

Fletcher Cox back to his dominating ways as Eagles win showdown

Fletcher Cox back to his dominating ways as Eagles win showdown

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Last June, the Eagles handed Fletcher Cox a six-year, $102.6 million extension. 

He was worth every penny on Thursday night.

After missing two games with a calf injury, Fletcher Cox wasn't just active for the Eagles' 28-23 road win over the Panthers (see 10 observations). He was dominant. 

"S---, it felt good," his fellow defensive tackle Tim Jernigan said. "It felt like he's back to his normal self. Dominating, doing what he do."

Cox came into Thursday night as a game-time decision — he had missed two straight games and hadn't played since leaving the Giants game — but after testing out his calf during pregame warmups, the Eagles decided to play him. 

If Cox was healthy enough to play, he was going to play in Thursday's battle of 4-1 teams. 

"He was playing," head coach Doug Pederson said. "There was no way I could sit him tonight. This was too important of a game."

With Cox's help, the Eagles improved to 5-1 and have the best record in the entire NFC. Without Cox, that would have been much harder on Thursday night. 

The Pro Bowl defensive tackle finished with two tackles, half a sack, two quarterback hits and one pass defensed (see breakdown). More importantly, he was an absolute force inside. The same force the Eagles have come to expect from him over the last few years. 

"It felt good just to be back out there, to be back with my teammates," Cox said. "Felt pretty good and went out and finished the ballgame, which was the most important thing."

Cox's biggest play of the game came in the second quarter when the Panthers were clinging to a 10-3 lead. On 3rd-and-5, Cox looked like he had Carolina right guard Trai Turner on roller skates. Cox pushed the 315-pound guard like he was a bundle of feathers right into Cam Newton's lap. 

That forced a bad throw that was intercepted by Rasul Douglas (see rookie report). The Eagles scored a touchdown seven plays later to tie the game at 10-10. 

"I just bulled the guard into the quarterback's lap and went after the throwing arm," Cox said. "I actually thought it was a strip but I turned around and saw Rasul get the ball. Every play is a big play, especially plays like that."

Cox thought he got a strip sack, while Chris Long was on the field and thought he got a good enough jump to maybe get a sack of his own. 

But Cox beat him to the quarterback.

"Of course, Fletch is just bullying the guard," Long said, "And he's just that type of game-changing player. He can absolutely alter every play on the field."

Cox was a big reason why Newton threw three interceptions on Thursday and he was a big reason why the Panthers had just nine rushing yards that didn't come from their quarterback. 

The thing is, the Eagles' defensive line actually played pretty well in the last two weeks without Cox. Beau Allen filled in and did a fine job. Jernigan started to play at another level. And the rotation seemed to work. 

But they didn't have Cox. And he's almost impossible to replace. 

"He's so dominating in there, pushing the pocket, run and pass, and it was great to have him out there tonight," Pederson said. "He's another one of those leaders on the team that you lean on. He battled through his injury, put that aside for the team tonight and did an outstanding job."

Eagles hoping no-risk, high-reward veteran signings can rekindle past success

Eagles hoping no-risk, high-reward veteran signings can rekindle past success

When you’re in salary cap hell, you have to be creative when building a roster.

And one tactic Howie Roseman used when putting together the Eagles team that begins training camp Thursday is signing a handful of no-risk, high-reward guys.

Players trying to revive their careers. Players trying to reclaim past glory. Players running out of chances.

These are no-risk, high-reward guys. They could become contributors, but if it doesn’t work out? The Eagles can release them before the season with modest or no cap ramifications.

When you’re in salary cap hell, you can’t sign all the free agents you want. So you sign the free agents that you can. And you do that by signing players nobody else wants. Guys with no leverage.

One tool Roseman likes to use is the NFL’s minimum-salary benefit, which gives teams some salary cap relief when they sign veteran players to certain deals.

The minimum-salary benefit can be used only for veterans with at least four years of experience who sign one-year minimum-wage deals with combined bonuses equalling $90,000 or less. 

Here’s a look at four of these no-risk, high-reward players the Eagles added this offseason.

Markus Wheaton

The Eagles signed Wheaton to a one-year deal with a $790,000 base salary (sixth-year minimum) with a $45,000 signing bonus, a $45,000 workout bonus but a cap number of $720,000, thanks to the minimum-salary benefit.

If the Eagles release Wheaton before the season, he would count just $90,000 against the cap, the value of his two bonuses.

Wheaton is only 27 and should be in his prime but has done nearly nothing the last two seasons after two very good years.

In 2014 and 2015, he combined for 97 catches for 1,393 yards, seven touchdowns and a 14.4 average. He had seven catches of 40 yards or more during those two years. Pretty good production.

But the last two years, Wheaton had just seven catches for 102 yards and one TD for the Steelers and Bears.

If he’s healthy and can be even half the player he was in 2014 and 2015, he could really help as a fourth receiver.

Matt Jones

The Eagles signed Jones to a two-year, $1.51 million deal that includes base salaries of $705,000 this year and $805,000 next year with no bonus money, which means no dead cap money if he’s released.

Even though Jones’ deal is not subject to the minimum-salary benefit, his base salaries of $705,000 and $805,000 are minimum wage for a third-year veteran in 2018 and a fourth-year vet in 2019.

Jones was one of the NFL’s best running backs the first half of 2016. Through seven games, he had 460 yards and a 4.6 average with three TDs. In a mid-October win over the Eagles at FedEx Field, he ran for 135 yards, the most rushing yards against the Eagles the last two years.

But he hurt his knee and never got his job back, then was released before last season. He resurfaced with the Colts but had only five carries all year.

Jones is only 25 and is a good enough receiver that he caught 19 passes for 304 yards and a TD as a rookie reserve.

With LeGarrette Blount gone, Jay Ajayi on a pitch count because of chronic knee soreness, Corey Clement’s role still undefined and Darren Sproles likely to be limited on offense at 35 years old, Jones will have a chance to work his way into the mix.

And if it doesn’t work out? No cap hit.

Richard Rodgers

The Eagles signed Rodgers to a one-year, $880,000 contract that includes a $790,000 base salary, a $45,000 signing bonus, a $45,000 workout bonus and a $720,000 cap figure, courtesy of the minimum-salary benefit rule.

If the Eagles release him, he’ll count $245,000 in dead money, the amount of guaranteed money in his one-year deal.

As recently as 2015, Rodgers caught 58 passes for 510 yards and eight touchdowns, which ranked him 12th among all NFL tight ends in catches and fifth in TDs. But he dropped to 30 catches in 2016 and just 12 last year.

Rodgers is only 26 and should be in his prime, but he’s reached only 30 yards twice in his last 31 games.

With Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert, the Eagles have a potent 1-2 punch, but if Rodgers can regain his form of 2015, it would give Doug Pederson even more options in a ridiculously talented array of skill players.

LaRoy Reynolds

The Eagles signed Reynolds to a one-year, $880,000 contract that includes a $790,000 base salary, a $90,000 roster bonus and a reduced $720,000 cap figure.

Because there’s nothing guaranteed in his contract, the Eagles would not absorb any dead money under the cap if they release him before the season.

Reynolds, now with his fourth team in four years, has played in 68 games with seven starts. He’s only 27 and is considered an above-average special teamer and adequate depth linebacker.

The Eagles have some big question marks at linebacker, with Paul Worrilow (Reynolds’ former teammate) out for the year, Mychal Kendricks now with the Browns, Nigel Bradham suspended for the opener and Jordan Hicks able to finish one of his first three seasons.

Reynolds will have a chance to work into that mix. If not? No harm done.

More on the Eagles

Eagle Eye: When does a contract negotiation become a problem?

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Eagle Eye: When does a contract negotiation become a problem?

In the latest edition of Eagle Eye, John Clark and Barrett Brooks are pumped for the start of training camp. Following MLB Commissioner's comments on Mike Trout's marketability, the guys discuss if it's on the player or the league to market an athlete? The Falcons said they will not give Julio Jones a new contract. At what point does a public contract negotiation become a distraction in the locker room?

1:00 - Guys are excited for the start of training camp.
4:45 - Is it on a player or a league to market an athlete?
11:00 - When does a Julio Jones contract situation become a locker room distraction?
18:00 - When money starts dividing a locker room.

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