The Chiefs certainly didn’t wait long to shake things up following their disappointing loss to the Oakland Raiders on Thursday night.
On Friday they signed veteran receiver Jason Avant and placed A.J. Jenkins on injured reserve.
Avant, 31, caught 21 passes for 201 yards in 11 games with the Carolina Panthers this season. He also has a history with Chiefs coach Andy Reid, who drafted Avant in the fourth round of the 2006 Draft, back when Reid was Philadelphia’s head coach.
During Avant’s eight-year tenure in Philadelphia, he averaged 37 catches, 455 yards and almost two touchdowns per season, primarily as a slot receiver. While he’s never possessed blazing speed, he earned a reputation for running good routes and having reliable hands.
Avant has not been terribly productive the last few seasons, however, though his last good year came in 2012, during Reid’s last season in Philadelphia. That year, he caught 53 passes for 648 yards in 14 games and finished with a Pro Football Focus grade of 11.1, which ranked 20th out of 111 receivers who played at least 25 percent of their team’s snaps.
But his production fell off some last year, his first under new coach Chip Kelly, and while he caught 38 passes for 447 yards and two touchdowns, he finished with a Pro Football Focus grade of negative-2.7, which ranked 89th out of 111 eligible receivers.
Avant’s PFF grade was worse this year through 11 games (negative-4.6) but he was released Tuesday after he criticized Panthers coach Ron Rivera following a 19-17 loss to the Atlanta Falcons.
“I’ve been in the league a long time,” Avant told The Charlotte Observer after the game. “I know two things. You never want to give a team a chance to win a game, with how much time was left on the clock. And asking a kicker to make a 50-yard field goal with the game on the line is rough sledding. If that’s the only option, yes. But if it’s not, you want to get as close as you can and think score and play to score a touchdown.”
Rivera later said Avant’s comments had nothing to do with his release; instead, Rivera said, they simply wanted to give rookie receiver Corey “Philly” Brown, who has 12 catches for 160 yards and one touchdown this season, more playing time.
Regardless, Avant will now go from a 3-7-1 Panthers team that has lost five straight games to a Chiefs team that is in the playoff hunt at 7-4, despite a discouraging 24-20 loss to previously winless Oakland on Thursday night.
In that game, the Chiefs’ receivers combined for 10 catches for 80 yards, which isn’t much when you consider quarterback Alex Smith completed 20 passes for 234 yards. What’s more, while Smith threw two touchdowns, not one was to a receiver — the 11th straight game a Chiefs wideout has failed to reach the end zone.
Injuries have not helped the situation, either. Donnie Avery, the No. 2 receiver behind Dwayne Bowe, has only played four games this year due to a groin injuries, while his replacement, Jenkins, missed the last three games with a shoulder injury.
The position took another hit Thursday when Junior Hemingway left during the first half while undergoing the league’s concussion protocol, which left the Chiefs with three healthy receivers — Bowe, Frankie Hammond and Albert Wilson — on the active roster.
Bowe has easily been the Chiefs’ most productive wideout, with 44 catches and 551 yards on 61 targets. Avery has missed the Chiefs’ last seven games, but he still has more catches (14), yards (156) and targets (23) than any other receiver on the roster.
Hemingway has caught 12 passes for 108 yards on 21 targets, while Jenkins has caught nine passes for 93 yards on 15 targets. Wilson has caught four passes for 51 yards on all four of his targets, while Hammond has caught three passes for 38 yards on 10 targets.
Avant’s agent, Doug Hendrickson, appeared to be happy with the move.
On Friday, he tweeted: “Congrats to Jason Avant. Said he deserved a better place and he found one.”