Avant saw release coming, no ill will toward Birds

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Avant saw release coming, no ill will toward Birds

Jason Avant saw the writing on the wall. Or, more accurately, saw the writing on the stat sheet.

As his role diminished last year, the Eagles’ popular veteran wide receiver gradually began to realize that 2013 would be his last season in Philly.

“You start seeing things when your role gets a little bit taken back and you don’t get as many opportunities as you had, as many plays that are called for you,” Avant said Tuesday in a wide-ranging interview with Comcast SportsNet’s Derrick Gunn.

“Not necessarily when the quarterback is scrambling and you’re the last option. There were a lot of those this year.”

Avant, who has played more games at wide receiver than any Eagle over the last 35 years, was released by the Eagles on Tuesday after 116 games, 297 catches, 3,646 yards and 12 touchdowns.

The numbers don’t come close to defining Avant, an inspirational locker room leader, a fearless special teamer, a clutch big-play receiver and an athlete as unselfish and humble as any pro you’ll ever see (see story).

“I knew [being released] was likely, but you never know in those situations,” Avant said. “I was 99 percent sure but there was still that one percent chance.

“But at the same time, I really respect the Eagles for letting me know so soon, so I can be on the market before free agency. That’s beneficial to you rather than go into it with 100 other players.”

Only four wide receivers in franchise history played more games than Avant -- Harold Carmichael, Bobby Walston, Pete Retzlaff (who was also a tight end) and Charles Smith.

Avant is one of only 12 NFL wide receivers who finished 2013 with the same team he started 2006 with.

“People don’t realize, eight years in the National Football League, that’s like 20 years in someone else’s work,” Avant said. “I talk to kids now who say, ‘I remember you when I was a little kid!’ A little kid? Are you kidding me?”

Avant, the Eagles’ fourth-round pick in 2006, made a name for himself as a clutch third-down receiver with a highlight-reel knack for remarkable one-handed catches.

This year, playing in Chip Kelly’s offense, he caught just 38 passes for 447 yards, both his lowest totals since 2008.

“I believe … if there weren’t contracts and there wasn’t a salary cap I’d still be here,” he said. “But when your [salary] numbers are going up and your production doesn’t look the same, there has to be some type of release to relinquish that pressure.”

Avant told Gunn that 2013 was the most frustrating year of his career.

“By far,” he said. “Not necessarily from a selfish standpoint of a numbers situation, just with knowing that I could be used different, that I could help the team.

“That’s one of those things with the new coaching staff -- which is a great staff, which is a great coach -- but every player doesn’t fit, and I felt like that square trying to fit into a triangle. I felt like that at times.

“Because I have a very unique way of getting open and doing certain things. As everybody knows, I’m not a blazer, but I’ve been able to get open consistently, and when you have a new coaching staff, everybody’s not accustomed to that. Coach [Andy] Reid wasn’t accustomed to that. I had to make him believe in me in order to do what I do.

“It was frustrating because you can’t play the way you want to play. Coach Kelly and Coach Bick (receivers coach Bob Bicknell), it’s a great staff. I just don’t fit what they do.”

Avant spoke several times during his 20-minute interview with Gunn about the fans and how pleasing them drove him and motivated him.

He spoke about the relationships he built during eight years with the Eagles, mentioning everybody from his coaches and teammates to the security and maintenance guys at the NovaCare Complex.

“That’s the hardest thing about it,” he said. “The relationships with the media members, my teammates and fans here, church family, all those people. Those are the things that I’ll miss.”

Avant, who turns 31 next month, believes he can still play and said he hopes to sign somewhere before the start of free agency Tuesday.

The Chiefs, coached by Reid, and the Jets, with offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, are obvious candidates.

“I’ve been here eight years and sometimes it’s good for a fresh start,” he said. “I know I still can play.”

Asked about his legacy, Avant said it goes far beyond football, far behind all the circus third-down catches and key blocks in the running game that may have gone unnoticed by most fans.

It’s all about being a good person, a good role model, a good teammate.

“Would I love to make the Pro Bowl? Would I love to have catches and new contract? Yeah, you love those things,” he said.

“But at the end of the day, you want your significance to have more effect on what you did outside the field and the type of people that you affect day in and day out and what type of person you are,” he said.

“I want that to be my legacy. That should mean more than what you do on a football field, and that’s what I wanted to leave. …

“I just hope the fans would know that I respect them, and that I care for them, and that I thought about them when I was playing.

“Hopefully, I played this game, blocking, tackling, running -- as best as I could. That was my role for years and years and years. To assist someone else to be great. Hey, everybody has a role. Everybody can’t be Michael Jordan or DeSean Jackson or Jeremy Maclin. A team just doesn’t work like that.

“There has to be someone who concedes and says, ‘No, you go ahead, you do your thing. As long as we’re winning, I’ll stay back,’ and that was my role here. To stay back and do what was asked of me and catch a couple passes over the middle.

“Could I have done more? Probably. But I loved doing it because it was going to help the team, help the city, help the team win.”

Owners meetings: Brandon Marshall thinks his experience can help Odell Beckham Jr.

Owners meetings: Brandon Marshall thinks his experience can help Odell Beckham Jr.

PHOENIX -- Dressed in a light, white cotton shirt, veteran receiver Brandon Marshall dealt with the desert heat while answering questions from a large semi-circle of reporters at the annual league meetings at the lavish Arizona Biltmore Hotel. 

While Marshall fits in on the football field, he stood out among NFL executives clothed in designer suits. 

But Marshall belonged on Monday morning. He was invited to address the league and give a player's perspective in an effort to bridge the gap between players and owners.

"I think it's evident that our relationship can be so much better," he said.

When thinking about Marshall's history, it's pretty shocking that he's now in the position he is within the league. Early in his career, Marshall wasn't high on the NFL's favorites list -- he was suspended for three games in 2008 after a couple off-the-field run-ins with the law.  

Marshall, now 33, is the perfect example of a player developing maturity along the way. And it's in that arena where he could be the most help to his new teammate Odell Beckham Jr. 

While Beckham has been incredible during his first three NFL seasons, at times, his emotions have gotten the best of him on the field and his maturity has been questioned. 

Marshall thinks he can help. 

"I've been on both ends of this spectrum," Marshall said. "I've been a problem and I've also been a solution. I have a wealth of experience. I just think organically and naturally, whenever he needs, not only him, but any guy in that receiver room, whenever they need to pull from that, they'll do it in a natural and organic way. 

"We have to remember that Odell's 22, 23 years old and we all have our own journey. He's the ultimate competitor and I want him to stay exactly where he's at. It's just sometimes it's easy for us as wide receivers and football players to cross that line, but he'll grow. And next year he's not going to be perfect and the year after that he's not going to be perfect. Shoot, I'm 33 and every year I get better and better. I'm not perfect. I just want him to stay on the track that he's on and mature."

If Marshall can help Beckham and make him even better, that should be pretty scary for the Eagles and the rest of the NFC East.  

Through three NFL seasons, Beckham has 288 catches for 4,122 yards and 35 touchdown catches. He's the only player in league history to do that in his first three seasons. Now, he'll be in a receiving corps with Marshall and second-year player Sterling Shepard. 

"I met Odell a few years ago and we started to form a friendship," Marshall said. "We have a great rapport already, so me coming here was organic and natural. He's awesome. I love him."

NFL owners approve Raiders' move from Oakland to Las Vegas

NFL owners approve Raiders' move from Oakland to Las Vegas

PHOENIX -- Invoking his father Al's name, and copying what the Hall of Fame owner did with the Raiders, Mark Davis is moving the franchise out of Oakland.

NFL owners approved the Raiders' move to Las Vegas 31-1 at the league meetings Monday. Miami was the lone dissenter.

"My father used to say the greatness of the Raiders is in the future," Davis said. "This gives us the ability to achieve that."

The vote was a foregone conclusion after the league and Raiders were not satisfied with Oakland's proposals for a new stadium, and Las Vegas stepped up with $750 million in public money. Bank of America also is giving Davis a $650 million loan, further helping to persuade owners to allow the third team relocation in just over a year.

The Rams moved from St. Louis to Los Angeles in 2016, and in January the Chargers relocated from San Diego to LA.

"You know our goal is to have 32 stable franchises for each team and the league," Commissioner Roger Goodell said. "We work very hard and never want to see the relocation of a franchise. We worked tirelessly over the last nine months or so on a solution. We needed to provide certainties and stability for the Raiders and the league."

The Raiders, whose relocation fee of approximately $350 million is less than the $650 million the Rams and Chargers paid, likely will play two or three more years in the Bay Area before their $1.7 billion stadium near the Las Vegas Strip is ready.

"I wouldn't use the term lame duck," Davis insisted. "We're still the Raiders and we represent Raider Nation.

"There will be disappointed fans and it's important for me to talk to them to explain why and how."

Las Vegas, long taboo to the NFL because of its legalized gambling, also is getting an NHL team this fall, the Golden Knights.

"Today will forever change the landscape of Las Vegas and UNLV football," said Steve Sisolak, chairman of the Clark County Commission and a former member of a panel appointed by Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval to study the stadium tax funding plan. "I couldn't be more excited for the fans and residents of Clark County as we move forward with the Raiders and the Rebels."

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf and a group trying to keep the team in Oakland, made a last-ditch presentation to the NFL last week. But that letter was "filled with uncertainty," according to Goodell.

Monday, she asked owners to delay the vote, wanting to give her city a chance to negotiate with a small group of owners to complete a stadium deal at the Coliseum site.

"Never that we know of has the NFL voted to displace a team from its established market when there is a fully financed option before them with all the issues addressed," Schaaf said in a statement. "I'd be remiss if I didn't do everything in my power to make the case for Oakland up until the very end."

Schaaf said the city presented a $1.3 billion plan for a stadium that would be ready by 2021. She said the existing Coliseum would be demolished by 2024, with the Oakland Athletics baseball team either moving to a new stadium at the Coliseum site or somewhere else in the city.

But the presence of the A's in that sports complex was particularly troubling to the NFL, Goodell said.

"We understand the Raiders' need for a new stadium," A's President Dave Kaval said. "Oakland is an incredible sports town and we would be sorry to see them leave. We commend the city's and county's efforts to keep the Raiders in Oakland. The mayor and her team have worked incredibly hard to save the franchise.

"We are focused on, and excited about, our efforts to build a new ballpark in Oakland and look forward to announcing a location this year."

The Raiders' move became more certain this month when Bank of America offered the loan. That replaced the same amount the Raiders lost when the league balked at having casino owner Sheldon Adelson involved and he was dropped from the team's plans.

Davis on Monday thanked Adelson for his "vision and leadership," saying the entire deal might not have happened without him.

Leaving the Bay Area is not something new with the Raiders, who played in Los Angeles from 1982-94 before heading back to Oakland. Davis was passed over last year in an attempt to move to a stadium in the LA area that would have been jointly financed with the Chargers. Instead, the owners approved the Rams' relocation and gave the Chargers an option to join them, which they exercised this winter.

Now, it's off to the desert for the Raiders. Well, in a few years.

"The opportunity to build a world-class stadium in the entertainment capital of the world," Davis said, "is a significant step toward achieving that greatness."