The Eagles’ best player hasn’t yet been a part of the team’s offseason program.
And he’s not expected to join this week either.
But Eagles vice president of football operations Howie Roseman made it pretty clear on Monday the team plans on keeping Fletcher Cox long-term and isn’t entertaining the idea of trading him.
“Fletcher Cox is going to be on our team,” Roseman said on Monday, the day before the team’s voluntary pre-draft minicamp is set to kick off. “He’s going to be on our team going forward. We are not trading Fletcher Cox.”
Cox hasn’t shown up for workouts since the voluntary offseason program began on April 4. And aside from Darren Sproles, who has a “family issue,” Cox is the only Eagle not expected to be at the minicamp this week, as his camp is engaged in ongoing contract negotiations with the team.
Head coach Doug Pederson said he wasn’t sure if Cox’s absence is contract related, but it’s easy to see why that’s a popular belief.
Cox, the 25-year-old All-Pro defensive lineman, is set to enter the fifth-year option year of his rookie contract and make nearly $8 million in 2016. That’s a nice chunk of change, but not anywhere near what Cox will make once the Eagles sign him to a long-term deal or what he’d make if he ever makes it to free agency.
Roseman hasn’t minced words when talking about Cox. He has continually said the team is committed to signing him to a long-term deal, saying things that could theoretically hurt the Eagles’ leverage in contract negotiations.
He just doesn't care.
“We’re not trying to play the leverage game,” Roseman said. “I think if we were, I’d be more careful about my words, calling him a great player, someone that we want here for a long time. This is not one that we want to play a game. We want to sign him. We want to extend him.
“We’re trying to do something that all of us can feel really good about and we understand that’s going to hurt us. We’re not going to win the deal and we’re not trying to win the deal. There’s no purpose in that when you’re talking about a guy that one day we’re hoping that we’re talking about him, a long time from now, as one of the great all-time Eagles.”
Last season, Cox’s fourth in the NFL, he had a career-high 9.5 sacks and figures to see a spike in production in Jim Schwartz’s new attacking-front 4-3 defense, as opposed to Billy Davis’ two-gapping 3-4.
So Cox is good and only getting better.
Now, the new coaching staff just has to wait until he shows up. The only mandatory days in the offseason is the minicamp from June 7-9 — all OTAs are voluntary.
“Listen, I’m OK with Fletcher Cox not being here,” Pederson said. “You know, it’s a voluntary program as you know, offseason-wise. Do we miss him? Yeah, we miss him and we’d love to have him around, but right now he’s hopefully keeping himself in shape and ready to go. I’m excited for when I finally do get to work with him.”
Earlier this offseason, the Eagles handed out contracts to several other young members of the team — Lane Johnson, Zach Ertz, Vinny Curry — who all haven't yet had Cox's level of success.
As this process takes longer and longer, is Roseman worried Cox’s relationship with the team or that his play will suffer?
“I think it’s a good problem to have,” Roseman said. “We’re talking about a player who’s been a great player, who’s young. We want him here for a long time. You’d rather have more problems like that where it’s really good players you’re trying to keep under contract as opposed to trying to find guys that you’re trying to sign.”