By Matt Dolloff, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) -- The Philadelphia Eagles just signed defensive lineman Fletcher Cox to a six-year, $103 million contract extension. While that number is not unheard-of for a high-end talent at that position, the deal includes $63 million guaranteed, which is the largest guarantee for a non-quarterback in NFL history, according to Adam Schefter.
Cox's record-setting deal has far-reaching implications across the National Football League for teams trying to lock up defensive linemen, but how does it affect the New England Patriots, in particular?
On the defensive line, Jabaal Sheard is the only player who right now could potentially be worth that kind of money. The 27-year-old is on the payroll for just $4 million in 2016 with a total cap hit of $6,812,500 and is set to become an unrestricted free agent after the season.
The Patriots already have major priorities in trying to sign cornerback Malcolm Butler and linebackers Dont'a Hightower and Jamie Collins, and have never doled out that kind of long-term cash for one player, so the Eagles may have just priced the Patriots out of any hope of retaining Sheard long-term. The team has already conceded that Chandler Jones, now a member of the Arizona Cardinals, would be too expensive to keep.
Cox was a key disruptive force for the Eagles in their shocking 35-28 win at Gillette Stadium last season. Things could get even more complicated for the Patriots (and the rest of the league) if and when the Broncos' Von Miller breaks all the records with his next contract.
While Butler plays an entirely different position than Cox, the money is similarly big for high-end cornerbacks. Josh Norman just signed with the Washington Redskins for five years and $75 million with $50 million guaranteed, so it's highly likely Butler could command that kind of dollar figure on the open market with even more guaranteed money.
Defensive tackle Malcom Brown, the Patriots' first-round pick in 2015, is locked up through 2018 on his rookie contract, but the former Texas standout has already emerged as a leader on the defensive line and showed flashes of his big-time potential in the second half of the 2015 season. Should Brown continue to improve and become an elite player within two years, the Patriots could face a serious problem trying to keep him in the fold.
The Patriots already have plenty of factors to consider in their efforts to get one or more out of Butler, Hightower, and Collins locked up long-term. Cox's record deal with the Eagles will only make things more complicated.
Matt Dolloff is a writer for CBSBostonSports.com. His opinions do not necessarily reflect that of CBS or 98.5 The Sports Hub. Have a news tip or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff and email him at email@example.com.
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