Avril still hoping for a long-term deal with Lions
When the Detroit Lions kick off their mandatory minicamp
Tuesday, defensive end Cliff Avril doesn’t plan to be there.
”It’s mandatory if you’re signed,” Avril said.
The Lions put the non-exclusive franchise tag on Avril in March,
effectively keeping the defensive end from hitting the market.
Another team can negotiate with Avril, but the franchise would
have to be willing to give up a pair of first-round picks to sign
him. The 26-year-old Avril is the only NFL player with at least
19.5 sacks, nine deflected passes, seven forced fumbles and four
fumble recoveries the past two years – according to STATS LLC – but
he hasn’t drawn much interest from another suitor because of the
”It’s definitely restrictive,” he said.
Detroit’s three-day session this week is the team’s last
gathering before training camp. If Avril doesn’t get the long-term
deal he wants by July 16, he will have a one-year deal worth $10.6
million – the average of the five highest-paid players at his
position – waiting for his signature.
”To go from making the league minimum to that is not bad, but
still you want a long-term deal,” he said. ”I feel like I was a
part of this team while we were not doing so well and 0-16. I want
to be a reason why we’re getting better.”
Avril insisted he hasn’t even thought about possibly holding out
when training camp starts in late July, trying to create leverage
in talks. Lions president Tom Lewand has said the ball is in
Avril’s court. The player has tried to pass it back to the team
”It’s up to Tom,” Avril said. His agent, Brian Mackler,
declined Monday to comment on negotiations.
Avril’s teammates, who haven’t seen him during offseason
workouts, got a chance to Saturday at a charity event hosted by
Lions receiver Nate Burleson and linebacker Stephen Tulloch.
”It was good to see Cliff,” Burleson said. ”It looks like
he’s staying in good shape on his own, so that’s a good
Avril had career highs in sacks (11), forced fumbles (six) and
fumble recoveries (three) last year to help Detroit snap its
11-season postseason drought.
A third-round pick out of Purdue in 2008, he has been productive
with 30 career sacks for the franchise and he’d like to get
compensated for it with a multiyear deal. Avril, though, has
avoided lashing out at the Lions.
”You still have to go work for these people and you still have
to go out and play football, so you can’t make it personal,” he
said. ”They have to do what’s best for their team and you need to
do what’s best for you.”
Buffalo gave defensive end Mario Williams a $100 million,
six-year contract – with $50 million guaranteed – when he hit the
market with fewer than 10 sacks the past three years and 53 over
his six-year career. Arizona rewarded defensive end Calais Campbell
last month with a $55 million, five-year deal last month after he
had no more than eight sacks the last three seasons and 21 in his
four-year career. The Carolina Panthers gave defensive end Charles
Johnson a $72 million, six-year deal – with a $30 million signing
bonus – last year after he more than doubled his career total with
11.5 sacks in 2010.
Avril refused to say how far apart or how close the two sides
were in negotiations.
”We have been talking, so that’s good,” he said. ”We’re going
to continue to keep working and see if we can get something
Avril could simply sign the one-year tender on the table and
bank on cashing in next year, when he potentially could be an
unrestricted free agent after another productive season.
”I could, but you have that risk of getting hurt, that risk of
your value going down,” he said. ”And, they told me to do that
last year. You can’t keep doing that for the next 10 years. I
wanted a deal last year too and they told me to go out and perform
and we’ll try to, I guess, take care of you in a sense.
”It goes back to being a business. They can do whatever they
want – obviously. If it was up to me, I would’ve been signed long
term, I would’ve been with my team already and trying to get this
Super Bowl thing running.”
Follow Larry Lage on Twitter at www.Twitter.com/larrylage