The Eagles have released veteran wide receiver Jason Avant, the team announced.
“In the year I spent with Jason, he was unbelievable in terms of his work ethic and his selfless nature,” said Chip Kelly 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 turns 31 in April and spent eight seasons with the Birds, totaling 297 receptions for 3,646 yards and 12 touchdowns. Last year, his numbers dipped (38 catches, 447 yards, two touchdowns).
"There’s no question that releasing a player like Jason is one of the toughest parts of the job," said Howie Roseman. "It’s a tough day when you have to say goodbye to player who you have so much respect for. I can’t thank him enough for the leadership, the big plays and the positive impression he made on so many of his teammates."
Added Jeffrey Lurie: "There have not been any players who have represented the Philadelphia Eagles with more class and dignity than Jason Avant. 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."
Strictly a slot receiver, Avant drew praise from Kelly for his toughness and execution as a blocker. In last year's win against the Lions, Avant sought Kelly out and told him to run the ball to his side of the field.
Originally a fourth-round pick out of Michigan back in 2006, Avant was valued in the locker room by his teammates.
"He kind of understands, he’s like a big brother, a voice you can listen to," DeSean Jackson told Birds 24/7 during the season.
Added Riley Cooper: "My rookie year when I came in, immediately he came to me: ‘Anything you need. Any help. Anything. You just let me know.’ He always was there for me. He’s been one of my best friends on the team since the day I got here."
Avant played a major role in the locker room accepting Cooper back after last summer's incident.
"It’s more than football. I want to see guys be successful. I don’t want to see the ESPN story, ‘Broke.’ " Avant said. "I don’t want to see divorce, I don’t want to see car accidents and DUIs. I just don’t want to see that. So that’s my biggest goal here is not just to catch passes and not just to win, but if we can affect the lives of young men, that’s what my purpose is."
He also took in undrafted free agents like Russell Shepard who never ended up making the team. Avant consistently spent time on the Jugs machine after practice and had the best hands on the team, even if he lacked pure speed and athleticism.
Going forward, expect the Eagles to go with several different options in the slot (more on that here), including Jeremy Maclin, DeSean Jackson and Zach Ertz.