He never said the magic words, but Andy Reid's message was clear: adding Mississippi State defensive tackle Fletcher Cox to a defensive line that accrued a league-best 46 sacks in 2011 is what he would call "a beautiful thing."
The Eagles had long been rumored to be interested in Cox, but pre-draft speculation is notoriously unreliable. This one turned out to be true, however, and the Eagles jumped on the opportunity to add the versatile defensive linemen when he slid within range.
"We thought he would be a top six or seven pick," Reid said.
But a combination of events that included, according to Reid, safety Mark Barron, linebacker Luke Kuechly and quarterback Ryan Tannehill, all going in the top 10, unexpectedly pushed Cox down the board. Once the Carolina Panthers opted for Kuechly at No. 9, Reid said the Eagles knew they had a chance to land the guy they wanted all along.
So the Eagles packaged their first-round pick (No. 15 overall) a fourth-round pick (No. 114) and a sixth-round pick (No. 172) to the Seattle Seahawks in exchange for the 12th overall pick and made Cox their man.
"We really didn't have an absolute need going into this draft, so we were able to kind of hang there and just see how things fell," said Reid. "That 15th spot is kind of a unique spot. There are a lot of different things that can happen there. So we sat there and we were going to be patient to a point. We put a ceiling on what we wanted to spend. We put a mark on the guys that we thought were really top-notch football players in that first round there.
"When (Cox) started falling, to be honest with you, we got excited about that. Why not be an Eagle, right?"
Reid has made 12 first-round picks since taking over the helm of the Eagles, and this is the sixth time he has used one of those picks on a defensive lineman.
"I think you win games up front," said Reid. "If you can win games up front, whether it's offensive line or defensive line, you make everybody better. That's just how it works. In this case, with the defensive line, you put so much urgency on the quarterback that they've got to make these decisions that hopefully aren't the right ones the majority of the time. There are very few quarterbacks that can throw the football when you have somebody right in their face."
When asked last week what the team looks for in defensive linemen, general manager Howie Roseman emphasized that pass-rushing ability was the key. The 6-4, 298-pound Cox registered 5.0 sacks and 14.5 tackles for loss in his junior season at Mississippi State, and was the consensus best pass rusher among defensive tackles in this class and the Eagles will utilize him along with a bevy of productive defensive linemen in their rotation-heavy scheme under Jim Washburn.
For his part, Cox had said publically before the draft that Philadelphia was his preferred landing spot. The reason for that, he said, was the opportunity to play under Washburn.
"I'm real excited to join him," Cox said on a conference call following his selection. "The fans and the coaches and everybody in Philadelphia should be excited about me because I'll bring excitement with me to Philadelphia. I bring a guy with a great attitude, I'm hard working and a guy that never quits and loves to compete."
A blue-collar player in Philadelphia who can sack the quarterback? Yeah, that's a beautiful thing.
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