This is the time of year when veteran players get cut. You often wonder if the player still has value or is over the hill. Mike Tanier wrote an excellent piece where he covered some veterans of interest. Jason Avant was one of them.
Who is He: A career slot/possession receiver, Avant was with the Eagles long enough to share the huddle with both Jeff Garcia and Matt Barkley. He has been a team captain and was the “designated guy with a clue” in the locker room during the lean years. Avant started 14 games last season, as Chip Kelly used a three-receiver base package, but he caught just 38 passes, his lowest total since 2008. After Riley Cooper, Jeremy Maclin and other Eagles signed new deals, the team released Avant to maintain cap maneuverability.
The Good: Avant still has the classic possession receiver skill set. He knows how to sit down in zones for short passes and can make nifty little moves at the stem of his pass pattern to get away from defenders. He still runs the post-corner route well enough to break free of the nickel defenders and safeties who are usually covering him, so Chip Kelly had him run that route frequently. Avant was a natural in the leader/captain/chaplain role and stood tall during some difficult situations, like the death of Andy Reid’s son and Riley Cooper’s racial slur.
The Bad: Opponents are often content to use safeties to cover Avant, who was never a burner and can now only outrun the slowest defensive backs. The Cardinals lined up Tyrann Mathieu against Avant last year, which was fascinating. Avant used his post-corner trick to catch a deep pass against Mathieu early; after that, the Honey Badger looked like he was orbiting in circles around Avant as he completed his pattern.
Avant was a great “bad ball” receiver in his prime, hauling in passes that were too high (Michael Vick) or too low (Donovan McNabb). He still flashes that talent, but some of his agility is gone. When the Eagles needed him to be a vacuum cleaner in the first Cowboys game (Nick Foles was playing injured, then Matt Barkley was playing Barkley), Avant just could not adjust to the ping-pong balls flying at him the way he used to.
Avant made an impact on special teams early in his career and will do anything he is asked, but he has not been a regular coverage team contributor in years and has little experience as a return man. As teams seek third-to-fifth receivers, lack of special teams versatility becomes an issue.
Bottom Line: Two of Avant’s recent coaches, the Chiefs’ Andy Reid and the Jets’ Marty Mornhinweg, will be in the market for receiver depth for their rosters. Avant’s coaches love him, but Avant would be an odd fit for the Chiefs, who need a dose of speed. The Jets are a better fit. Thinking outside the Reid Family box, the Broncos could use Avant if they lose Eric Decker: insert him as the fourth option in their passing game and he can do Brandon Stokley-type stuff.
Avant is not destined to have a Stokley-like endless career as a lovable try-hard slot guy, however, because his skills are clearly fading. Avant can still help as a safety valve for a contender or camp counselor for a rebuilding team, but his next contract will be his last.
Great wrute-up. That is Jason Avant. I sure hope he catches on with the right team and is able to catch some balls and win some games.