The Eagles released wide receiver Jason Avant on Tuesday, according to a source close to the situation.
The move, an expected one, was first reported by ProFootballTalk.com. The Eagles made it official shortly after the news broke.
Avant's days in Philly appeared numbered for various reasons, but for the most part the Eagles let him go because his production had waned. The team also re-signed free agents Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper last week making Avant even more expendable.
The 30-year-old Avant was also due a $1 million roster bonus in over a week. The Eagles will save nearly $4 million in salary cap numbers with Avant's release.
The Eagles will miss Avant's presence in the locker room, around the NovaCare Complex and on game days. A religious man, according to all accounts, Avant led by example but also wasn't afraid to speak up if need be. He mentored many young players, in recent years taking them under his wing in Bible study classes or after practice catching balls from the jug machine.
But as Eagles general manager Howie Roseman said when asked about Avant at the NFL combine two weeks ago, it's tough to lead from the sidelines. The Eagles have only so many roster spots and Avant's role was going to be diminished dramatically.
“There have not been any players who have represented the Philadelphia Eagles with more class and dignity than Jason Avant,” Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie said in a statement. “Whether it was in the locker room, on the playing field or in the community, he has always been a true professional, a role model and a winner every step of the way. On behalf of the entire organization, I wish Jason and his wife Stacy, and their two daughters, nothing but the best as he continues his fine career.”
Avant shouldn't last long on the market. He may have lost a step, but he still caught 38 passes for 447 yards and two touchdowns last season. He's an unselfish blocker and can contribute on special teams if necessary. Avant's one-handed catches for the Eagles were legendary.
Drafted in the fourth round of the 2006 draft, Avant played his first eight seasons in Philadelphia and ranks 11th in team history with 297 receptions for 3,646 yards and 12 touchdowns. The Chicago native was chosen by his teammates as the Ed Block Courage Award recipient in recognition of the adversity he overcame in his youth.
“In the year I spent with Jason, he was unbelievable in terms of his work ethic and his selfless nature,” Eagles head coach Chip Kelly said in a statement. “He was a great teammate. We know he will have a chance to sign with another team and by releasing him now, he will have a full offseason to make the necessary adjustments. I had a chance to speak with him today and he handled himself like the true professional he is.”
Avant's snaps in the slot will likely be distributed among all the Eagles wide receivers and tight ends, but Maclin could take over most of his inside routes. Here's a story on how Kelly will likely utilize all of his weapons on offense after retaining Cooper and Maclin and letting Avant go.