Fletcher Cox trade makes sense, but keeping him sounds better

Despite reports of a contract impasse, the best guess is that Fletcher Cox will end up remaining with the Eagles. AP Photo/Matt Rourke

PHILADELPHIA -- Despite the recent flurry of speculation, the best guess is that Fletcher Cox will remain with the Philadelphia Eagles for years to come.

That speculation -- fueled by a report that Cox turned down $60 million in guaranteed money from the Eagles -- may well have led ESPN’s Mike Sando to include Cox in his column about potential draft-day trades. That makes it necessary to consider the report itself first.

Howard Eskin of Fox 29 TV reported that Cox and his agent, Todd France, had turned down that deal. France went on 94.1 FM-WIP to criticize the report. France said that he had not talked to Eskin and didn’t have a chance to confirm or deny the report.

But France also quibbled with the details, saying the “$60 million guaranteed” was not what it appeared to be. France made it sound as if the money was offered in increments, with bonuses scheduled at certain dates. The Eagles would be able to release Cox before those bonuses came due, from what France said.

Conclusion: Eskin nailed part of the story. The talks between the Eagles and Cox have not produced a long-term contract, so it’s no surprise that there are differences of opinion. Whether those differences are profound enough to cause the Eagles to trade Cox is another question.

Here’s where Sando’s proposed trade comes in. He suggests the Eagles could trade Cox and the No. 8 pick in the 2016 NFL draft to the Tennessee Titans for the No. 1 overall pick. That would allow the Eagles to take Carson Wentz or whichever quarterback they have rated at the top of their list.

Would that make sense from the Eagles’ perspective? Absolutely. This may tick off the Defensive Linemen’s Anti-Prejudice Association, but the bottom line is that an elite quarterback will take a team a lot further than an elite defensive lineman.

Cox is a terrific player and has been one for four seasons in Philadelphia. The Eagles have won exactly zero playoff games during his time here. The team would be better off keeping Cox and obtaining a franchise quarterback some other way. No doubt about that.

But if Cox could get the Eagles from the eighth pick to the No. 1 pick, that’s a sacrifice they would have to make (assuming they believed Wentz or Jared Goff or Paxton Lynch was worthy of that pick). If they could trade up without giving up future draft aspects, they could find a replacement for Cox early in next year’s draft.

There’s one other factor to consider here. Twice in recent history, the Eagles have reached an impasse with key defensive players. Twice, the Eagles applied the franchise tag, which would be their option next year with Cox. Both times, the Eagles decided the money and the player’s unhappiness were not worth it.

They removed the tag each time. They lost linebacker Jeremiah Trotter and defensive tackle Corey Simon.

But you know what? They continued winning games and going deep into the postseason each time. That’s because they had Donovan McNabb, the No. 2 pick from the 1999 draft, at quarterback.

If the Eagles are sold on a quarterback in this draft, and if they are concerned that they are on the road to losing Cox in a year or two, then a trade like that makes perfect sense.

From the Titans’ perspective, that’s a different story. They landed quarterback Marcus Mariota last year. If they can add a 25-year-old Pro Bowl defensive lineman while still getting an elite offensive tackle, that trade should be attractive to them.

It may never happen. The feeling here remains that the Eagles will do what it takes to retain Cox. But they are also likely to try very hard to move up for a quarterback. So you never know.

Sando also suggests the Eagles could trade one of their third-round picks to the Kansas City Chiefs for running back Jamaal Charles. Coach Doug Pederson is very familiar with Charles and there's a logical fit there. But Charles is 29 and coming off knee surgery. After their experiences with running back DeMarco Murray and injured linebacker Kiko Alonso last year, the Eagles may be a little gun-shy on this one.