New deal for Avant should be next contract priority

There have been some preliminary talks with Jason Avant, but nothing is concrete for the fourth-year wideout, who is in the final season of his rookie deal.

Earlier this week, when the Eagles locked up Brent Celek with a 6-year extension, the team touted how it has 22 players on its current roster signed through 2012 and beyond. Apparently, the Winston Justice and Celek deals pretty much used up all the remaining cap money the Birds have available for that sort of thing this season.

One guy they haven't locked up, though, is plucky wideout Jason Avant, last Sunday's hero and a favorite of teammates and coaches. There have been some preliminary talks, but nothing concrete for the fourth-year wideout, in the final season of his rookie deal.

If there is a new collective-bargaining agreement, Avant becomes an unrestricted free agent this offseason, which would be a huge "uh-oh." The Eagles (like much of the league) clearly believe there will be no new agreement this offseason, and unrestricted free agency will go from 4 years served to 6. That would make Avant a restricted free agent for 2010. But given the clutch year he's having, they certainly couldn't tender him at his draft level (fourth round). It's not even clear they could put a second-round tender on him and not risk losing a heart-and-soul guy. (The tender level refers to the draft pick compensation you get if somebody else signs your guy.)

A first-round tender, last offseason, would have meant paying Avant $2.5 million, a second-round tender, $1.8 million.

This might be a tough deal to do, given that DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin are going to be ahead of Avant on the pecking order forever. But it probably shapes up as a top offseason priority.

Linebacker Chris Gocong fits into the same free-agency category, by the way, but teams might not be lining up to bid for him.


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