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

franchise tag.

”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

executive.

”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

thing.”

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

done.”

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