The Philadelphia Eagles will be entering a new era of football under Chip Kelly.
Kelly’s offense is predicated on speed. He likes mobile quarterbacks with the ability to run and versatile players that can line up at multiple positions, a la new fullback James Casey.
Avant is the longest-tenured skill position player in Philadelphia; in fact, the only players that have been on the roster for more seasons are Todd Herremans and Trent Cole.
Avant was a fourth-round pick out of the University of Michigan in 2006. He caught just seven passes as a rookie but soon became the team’s primary slot receiver. Avant has totaled 51, 52 and 53 catches the last three seasons, making him one of the more consistent receivers in the league.
Avant even earned a five-year contract extension prior to the 2010 season.
That deal should keep him in Philadelphia through ’14. It’s a lot to pay for a possession receiver, but Avant has been one of the league’s finest at his craft. He’s made his mark as Mr. Reliable, a guy that comes through on third downs.
But there are several reasons Kelly may not want Avant on the ’13 team.
First, there’s a contract set to give Avant a base salary of $2 million next year plus a $700,000 bonus that puts Avant at $2.7 million against the cap. That figure increases to $3.96 million against the cap in 2014.
As productive as Avant has been in his role, that’s a lot of money to pay for a receiver that has caught a grand total of two touchdowns in the last three seasons (combined).
Avant’s 2012 season was just the eighth time in history a receiver had at least 53 catches without a touchdown.
And since 2010, Avant’s two scores rank dead last among the 37 receivers with 150 or more catches. In fact, there have been 121 receivers with at least 50 total receptions since ’10, and only one has fewer touchdowns.
Kelly will probably want to utilize undrafted free agent Damaris Johnson as his slot receiver. Johnson is quick and was a dangerous playmaker in college.
The new phase of the NFL seems to be the explosive undersized players, and Johnson fits that mold. He’s also set to earn just a $480,000 base salary in 2013 and $570,000 in 2014.
Releasing Avant now would count as a $1.42 million cut against the cap for next year, but it would still save the Eagles money.
It’s not as if Avant has been a huge target in the red zone during his time with the team. He’s one of 282 receivers in the history of the league with 250 or more receptions. Only one of those has caught fewer touchdowns.
And then there’s also the recent trade for Benn, a former second-round pick.
Benn has struggled to stay healthy during his three years in the league, missing 11 games due to injury during that span.
But he can be explosive, having earned a slew of awards at the collegiate level. He ran a 4.42 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine, and Kelly will certainly enjoy finding different ways to use Benn.
So what does this mean for Avant?
Well, DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin are the obvious one and two receivers in Kelly’s offense. Johnson will certainly have a role, and Benn should make the team because Kelly did trade for him.
And don't forget about Riley Cooper, the only receiver with any size on the Eagles.
Personally, I love Avant. He's incredibly reliable, he's a class act and he's a phenomenal story. I hope he at least finishes out his current deal in Philly.
But the writing may be on the wall for Avant.