"Dealing with the death in my family was a really bad time for me, and I kind of struggled a little bit," Cox said during a conference call Monday. "To get the contract signed is just a blessing. Melvin is in a better place right now and he'll be watching down on me."
Cox's mid-June signing is the earliest the Eagles have had their top pick locked up in years. The new collective bargaining agreement has made negotiating contracts for rookies much simpler because the salaries essentially are slotted according to draft position.
The Eagles' last three top draft picks - guard Danny Watkins, defensive end Brandon Graham, and wide receiver Jeremy Maclin - missed some of camp under the old CBA. Cox's signing brings the total number of first-round picks with contracts to 17. Financial terms of Cox's deal were not immediately known.
"You don't want to miss a few days of training camp," Cox said. "The days you miss of training camp . . . you're three days behind or somebody's three days ahead of you."
Unlike last season's rookies, who had no offseason because of the NFL lockout, Cox and his draft class have benefited from a full month of workouts.
"My biggest improvement was getting off the ball and just learning how to practice with" the veterans, Cox said.
The 6-foot-4, 298-pound defensive tackle had the opportunity to run with the first team because Cullen Jenkins missed a week to be with his wife, who was recovering from minor surgery, and because Mike Patterson still hadn't been cleared to return to practice after January brain surgery.
The Eagles originally said Patterson would be ready by training camp, but Eagles coach Andy Reid said last week that the defensive tackle's return date was still up in the air.
No matter his status - starter or reserve - Cox is expected to be part of defensive line coach Jim Washburn's four-man rotation on game days. He may even be used some at defensive end.
The Eagles moved up three spots to select Cox, an all-Southeastern Conference player at Mississippi State. He racked up 114 tackles, 24.5 tackles for loss, and 8.5 sacks during his three-year career with the Bulldogs.
Cox said he will spend the next month before camp training at home in Mississippi. He said he planned to buy something for his mother, Melissa Cox, now that he's a multimillionaire. He just didn't know what that would be.
"I'll do something really special for my mom and my siblings," Cox said. "Other than that, me playing football is the most important thing right now."
Eagles reach 90. Defensive end Monte Taylor, 23, was claimed off waivers from Seattle. A product of the University of Cincinnati, Taylor was signed by the Seahawks as a rookie free agent after the draft. The Eagles now have the offseason maximum of 90 players on their roster.
Contact Jeff McLane at 215-854-4745 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @Jeff_McLane on Twitter.