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Will Eagles great Fletcher Cox join Jason Kelce in Hall of Fame?

Will Eagles great Fletcher Cox join Jason Kelce in Hall of Fame? originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

For Jason Kelce, it’ll be easy. Wait five years and you’re in. There’s no discussion. No debate. Book your trip now. August 2029, Philly road trip to Ohio. Jason Kelce will be going into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

For Fletcher Cox, it’ll be different. There’ll be arguments on both sides. There’ll be hope and then disappointment. He probably won’t even be a finalist when the process begins. But one day, Cox very well could join his long-time teammate in Canton.

It’s just going to take some time.

Kelce is a no-brainer. Six 1st-team All-Pros, seven Pro Bowls, the consensus best center in the NFL in his generation and one of the four or five best of any generation.

Cox’s resume isn’t quite as jammed, but it’s pretty darn impressive.

Hall of Fame good?

Let’s take a look.

The biggest thing Cox has going for him is the All-Decade team for the 2010’s. The biggest thing Hall of Fame voters want to see is an extended period of elite production. Once in a while you’ll get a guy who had a few incredible seasons in a short career – Steve Van Buren, Terrell Davis, Tony Boselli – but for the most part, you need to show that you produced at a high level year after year, and the All-Decade team certainly proves that.

Then there’s the six Pro Bowls. That’s a lot. Cox is one of only 21 interior linemen to make six Pro Bowls. Four of the 21 either aren’t yet eligible or are still active – Cox, Geno Atkins, Gerald McCoy and Aaron Donald – but 12 of 17 who are eligible are already in the Hall.

What about six Pro Bowls in a row? Cox is one of only 12 interior lineman to do that. The 11 others are already in the Hall of Fame. Every one.

Then there’s the 70 sacks. Now, sacks have only been an official stat since 1982, but in those 42 years, that’s 10th-most among interior linemen. Of the seven with 70 sacks who are eligible for the Hall of Fame, only Henry Thomas and LeRoi Glover aren’t in the Hall, and they each made only two Pro Bowls.

To put those 70 sacks into perspective, only 11 active edge rushers have 70 sacks. Cox got ‘em as a primarily inside player.

Now let’s factor in team success. Which does matter. Cox has a Super Bowl ring and reached the playoffs seven of his 12 seasons.

Let’s put it all together: How many interior linemen have six Pro Bowls, 70 sacks and a Super Bowl win? 

Three.

Aaron Donald, Warren Sapp and Fletcher Cox. That’s the company he’s in.

And one thing we haven’t even mentioned is that Cox had rare versatility, just as effective stuffing the run as attacking the quarterback. He was never one of those guys who just wants sacks because stopping the run doesn’t get you a big contract. He did it all.

And he showed up every day. Cox missed only seven games in his career (four by coach’s decision on the last day of the season). Cameron Jordan is the only defensive lineman to play more games than Cox since 2012. And to play more snaps.

The Hall of Fame committee wouldn’t consider Cox’s value as a rock-solid leader and mentor, but to those who’ve been around him every day, you can’t overstate how valuable he’s been to this franchise off the field as well.

Kelce did it his way, Cox did it his way, and both were respected and admired by everybody in the NovaCare Complex.

Cox may have been overlooked a bit during his 12 years with the Eagles. He’s the anti-Kelce. Quiet guy, doesn’t have a podcast, didn’t wear a Mummer’s outfit at the Super Bowl parade and good luck finding video of him stumbling into a fern at a Super Bowl party or chugging beers at the corner bar. Where Kelce’s brilliant farewell speech was 41 minutes, Cox’s might be 41 seconds.

He also had the misfortune of playing most of his career at the same time as Aaron Donald, who’s only one of the best interior linemen ever. And just one All-Pro could hurt when the Hall of Fame committee sits down to evaluate his credentials.

Pro Football Reference has a valuable tool called the Hall of Fame Monitor, which uses a variety of criteria – Pro Bowls, All-Pro, Super Bowl wins, etc. – to compare players who aren’t in the Hall with those at the same position who are.

The monitor ranks Cox 4th-highest among interior linemen not in the Hall, behind Donald, long-time Viking Kevin Williams and Cox’s one-time teammate, Ndamukong Suh. Of 15 defensive tackles already enshrined, Cox’s Hall of Fame rating is higher than six.

He’s not a no-brainer. He’s not a lock. He’s not a sure thing. But look a little deeper and Cox checks off every box the voters want to see.

Production. Consistency. Longevity. Honors. Team success.

Any way you look at him, Cox is a Hall of Famer. And I’m confident one day the voters will make it official.