Fletcher Cox helped make Eagles fans luckiest in NFL

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Better, worse or indifferent, the 2024 Philadelphia Eagles will feel different than anything area fans have become used to for more than a decade.

Last season was the final run for an unprecedented core group of players that anchored the Eagles for a generation of fans.

Jason Kelce and Lane Johnson on the offense. Brandon Graham and Fletcher Cox on the defense. All but Johnson, who was drafted at the start of the mercifully brief tenure of Chip Kelly, saw the end of the Andy Reid era.

Reid has gone on to win three Super Bowls in Kansas City and has become a beloved figure across a league that increasingly doesn’t remember Reid as the Eagles coach. Good for him.

Since then, the Eagles have had three head coaches, gone to two Super Bowls and hoisted one Lombardi Trophy.

The quartet of Kelce, Johnson, Graham and Cox has led the charge through that entire time. Let us hope Eagles fans understand just how rare that is. In the current NFL, it’s rare for any player to play 10 seasons, much less for the same team.

Kelce’s retirement, deservedly, attracted plenty of attention in Philadelphia and elsewhere across the country. For their 11 years together, Kelce and Johnson anchored the Eagles offensive line, which is considered one of the best across the league.

In the space of three days, coinciding with the start of NFL free agency, Graham and Cox announced their future plans. Graham signed to play a 15th and final season for the Eagles. Cox announced his retirement after 12 years with the team.

Next season Graham and Johnson will return. The players with the most experience with the team besides them are long snapper Rick Lovato and kicker Jake Elliott who will be playing their eighth seasons with the team. Elliott actually didn’t start his career with the Eagles but was signed off the Bengals practice squad early in the 2017 Super Bowl season.

Dallas Goedert and Josh Sweat, at seven years, are the longest-tenured offensive and defensive players.

That fact makes the Eagles’ luck that much more incredible.

Graham has spoken often about playing 15 years in the league. He more than anyone understands just how tenuous an NFL career can be.

Graham was a first-round pick with all the expectations that come along with it. He’s been a first-round bust. He’s been a comeback player of the year candidate.

He made the biggest play of the Super Bowl, stripping Tom Brady to set up the Eagles final field goal that put the game away. He helped lead the Eagles to a second Super Bowl with the first double-digit sack year of his career. He was one of the Eagles’ most effective defensive players in a more limited role last season.

Graham will be back to bring leadership, set the tone for the team and, occasionally, rush the quarterback.

Cox was arguably the Eagles’ most effective player last season. For more than a dozen years, Cox was much more than that. He was among the best interior defensive linemen in the league. Cox had 70 career sacks and kept pace with recently retired Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald as the most disruptive, unblockable forces in football.

Both Cox and Kelce could and should easily find themselves in the NFL Hall of Fame. To have them side by side on the Eagles sidelines for more than a dozen years makes Philadelphia among the luckiest of NFL cities.

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