Fletcher Cox made NFL history last week when the Eagles defensive lineman signed a blockbuster six-year, $103 million contract extension that includes $63 million in guarantees—the most ever given to a non-quarterback. But the 25-year-old former first-round pick isn’t letting himself stay in celebration mode, and he spent part of Wednesday at a school in Atlanta, talking to young athletes about hydration and heat safety as part of the Gatorade Beat the Heat program.
SI.com caught up with Cox on the phone to discuss his recent monster contract and the significantly remodeled 2016 Eagles.
Don Banks:Have you had time to fully wrap your head around that new contract and what it means for your lifestyle in the way of changes going forward?
Fletcher Cox: Yeah, a little bit of the surprise is out of the way, and it has sunk in. But no, no new lifestyle changes. No trips planned, nothing. I guess the most important thing I bought is, my mom got a new car. I got her a car when I got drafted, and then last week I bought her a new one. That’s about it for now. She got a 2016 Yukon Denali.
DB:Did you ever expect to get a deal that size going into your fifth season in the league?
FC: Yeah, it was actually huge, and when I found the out the numbers on everything it was seriously mind-blowing. But as far as getting it done, it was a long process, maybe 14, 15 months of negotiating. But when it got done, it was like a weight lifted off my shoulders.
DB:I’m sure you realize you probably just made serious money for the likes of Broncos linebacker Von Miller, Jets defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson and Panthers defensive tackle Kawann Short, all of whom are seeking new deals and will no doubt use your contract figures as something of a benchmark. Any of them call to say thanks?
FC: Nah, I really haven’t heard from them, but when I do see them, I’ll kind of mess with them about it and tell them thank me later. The bar is set, really. I know those guys are great players and they’re going to get the money they deserve.
DB:You’re from tiny Yazoo City, Miss., and you just received more guaranteed money than any defensive player in the game. What was the reaction back home?
FC: I could never have dreamed that. It was mind-blowing. The whole community of Yazoo City is very shocked and very proud of me, and my family, my whole support system is very happy and very excited for me, and they can’t wait for the season to start. Same as me.
DB:Your deal seems to underline that a 4–3 defensive tackle who can rush the passer is now one of the premier positions in the league. After playing defensive end in the 3–4 formation in Philadelphia, are excited to be shifting inside in Jim Schwartz’s new 4–3 lineup?
FC: Yeah, and I think at that position you have to be the leader, someone who’s just going out and playing balls to the wall. That’s a position where in that defense you have to be dominant. And I look at Coach Schwartz and think he’ll do a great job with us. I think it’s going to be a real good year for the Eagles defense.
DB:You didn’t attend most of the Eagles’ off-season program due to your contract situation. Do you know Jim Schwartz much yet?
FC: I know he wants and he demands greatness and he’s not going to settle for mediocre stuff. He wants it done the way he wants it done, I can tell that. And I like that about him already.
DB:You must love the new/old Howie Roseman era in Philly because guys are getting paid (The Eagles have handed out $280 million in guarantees so far in 2016). Is this a new chapter for the Eagles?
FC: It says a lot about him because they’re paying a guy that they drafted. They’re paying a guy who’s already there, and I think that’s one way of building a team, keeping the guys that you already have. That way everybody knows what to expect in the organization.
DB:Does the Chip Kelly era already like feel long ago?
FC: Chip, man, was a great guy and a great coach and I loved playing for him. But right now the most important thing is Doug [Pederson] is our head coach, and I’m looking forward to it.
DB:Having just watched the Cavaliers end Cleveland’s long championship drought with an NBA title, do you let yourself dream about bringing a Super Bowl title to Philadelphia, the only NFC East city to never win one?
FC: Man, it’d be crazy. Broad Street would be crazy. The city of Philadelphia may party for like a month, no joke. It’d be great to see though. Let’s see what happens.
DB:You’re entering the best month to be an NFL player, with nothing but free time between now and training camp. Are you doing anything fun with your summer break?
FC: Nah, not really. Other than I’ll probably take my family to Disney World again this year. That’s about it. Being as I’ve not been [at the Eagles complex] for the whole time, I’m just still training. I’ll go back to Philadelphia in a couple weeks and work out at the facility.
DB:What was the message to the young athletes you met with in Atlanta?
FC: I’m trying to drill through the kids’ heads that they cannot drink enough Gatorade. This program educates all athletes about the importance of staying hydrated during the hot summer months, and making sure you have enough fluids in your body, like we have to do in training camp.
DB:Speaking of Eagles camp, do you guys still have the smoothie waiting for you next month, in the name of sports science? Or was that done away with like most of the rest of Chip Kelly’s program?
FC: The smoothie thing was always optional. I had one some days, though. I’d put everything in it, from bananas to strawberries to peanut butter, 2% milk and protein. But yes, the smoothie station is still there.