Yesterday afternoon, I passed along an excerpt from Jeff McLane of Philly.com’s NFL Draft combine buzz piece , where he cleared up any speculation that Eagles’ middle-linebacker DeMeco Ryans would be a cap casualty. McLane believes that Ryans’ locker room leadership will be largely responsible for the Eagles not really even considering releasing Ryans, and potentially not even asking him to take a paycut.
Then again, Ryans’ leadership did come with 127 tackles and four sacks, which didn’t make up for the fact that his pass coverage ability dwindled in many big-games, but it did show that he has still serves a very useful purpose on the field for the team as well. Per McLane, the same isn’t likely to be said about veteran wideout Jason Avant this off-season.
2. Speaking of leaders, the Eagles are expected to lose one in Jason Avant. The eight-year veteran’s presence was perhaps most felt in the receiver room, especially after long-time assistant coach David Culley left and followed Andy Reid to Kansas City. Many of the receivers looked at Culley as a father figure and respected him immensely. Avant helped fill that void and kept the group together after videotape of Riley Cooper using a racial slur surfaced in August. New receivers coach Bob Bicknell is in many ways the polar opposite of the free-spirited Culley. Avant often acted as a go-between the intense assistant and DeSean Jackson. The star receiver got into it with Bicknell on the sideline during the Vikings game, but it was hardly the lone time those two had a disagreement.
While, DeSean is a volatile personality, he had his best season of his career in 2014. Sure, that had a lot more to do with Chip Kelly’s offense than anything, but we all know that DeSean Jackson will take games (or the entire 2011 season) off, if he isn’t happy. So I guess in that sense, some credit does need to be given to Avant for keeping Jackson level-headed and focused throughout the season. At least some.
As for his on-field production, Avant caught only 38 passes for 447 yards, both of which were the lowest totals that he had amassed since 2008.
Avant never seemed to have much of a fit in Kelly’s offense, until Jeremy Maclin went down in training camp. Even then, the 30 year-old never became the number two receiver, but rather just another option in Kelly’s offense. Technically he was the number three receiver, but in today’s NFL that doesn’t always mean much. It means especially less when both tight ends—Zach Ertz and Brent Celek—topped Avant in receiving yards.
Avant is certainly a good guy and a great locker room presence, but that only goes so far. Given the fact that the Eagles COULD bring back both Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper this off-season, it really makes you wonder whether given that situation, it wouldn’t be best for both sides to part ways. Even should the Eagles only bring back one of the two, which seems like the most likely scenario, it is a receiving stacked draft, leading many to think that the team will grab a receiver, that fits Kelly’s system better than Avant, somewhere in the first two rounds.
Avant has a cap hit of nearly four million dollars next season, which could be used to help keep guys like Trent Cole and/or Ryans on the roster. Or hey, maybe even go get a safety.
I think that this would even be a peaceful exit. Both sides best interest at this point would be in splitting. Avant will have no issues latching on with another team (maybe even a competitive team), and the Eagles will have nearly four million to play with heading into both a solid free-agent class and a draft that doesn’t look half bad.