Talks between Avril, Lions break down
Defensive end Cliff Avril's future in Detroit beyond 2012 is seriously in doubt after he failed to reach a long-term deal by Monday's 4 p.m. ET deadline.
Avril has confirmed he plans to sign the one-year franchise tender for this season, worth $10.6 million, that was placed on him by the club to keep him from becoming an unrestricted free agent.
He just didn't get the long-term security that he desperately wants at this point in his career.
"After extensive discussions with Cliff and his representative, we were unable to reach an agreement on a new contract by today's 4 p.m. deadline," Lions president Tom Lewand said in a statement.
"While we are disappointed that we could not execute a long-term deal, we do look forward to having Cliff with us this season under the terms of the franchise tender."
Avril actually has two other options, but neither is realistic.
He could sign with another club, but any team signing him would have to give up two first-round draft picks as compensation, a price too high to even consider (the Lions, by the way, would have the option of matching the deal).
Or he can sit out the season.
Avril, 26, who led the team with 11 sacks and six forced fumbles, isn't going to turn down more than $10 million. He will be a Lion this season. He knew that all along.
The only real question is whether he will sign the one-year tender in time to report for the start of training camp next week.
Avril is expected to wait a while, thus missing the first part of camp, maybe even a couple preseason games, to avoid injury.
Avril, understandably, is disappointed because he has insisted he wants to be a Lion well into the future
But in a quote posted on the team's website, Avril said, "Business is business. You can't get mad at that. It's not personal. I'm kind of disappointed it couldn't happen, but it is what it is."
Negotiations between Avril's agent, Brian Mackler, and the Lions reportedly broke off more than an hour before the deadline for franchised players to reach long-term deals.
A contract recently signed by Calais Campbell, another defensive end, couldn't have helped the Avril-Lions talks. Campbell recently signed a five-year, $55 million deal with the Arizona Cardinals, including more than $30 million guaranteed. Campbell had eight sacks and blocked three field goals last season.
From Avril's perspective, he and his agent had to see those numbers and think they could try for something similar next year in free agency.
Avril, a third-round pick in 2008, cannot sign a long-term deal with the Lions now until after the season based on rules placed on franchised players in the collective bargaining agreement.
He will be eligible to be an unrestricted free agent next spring, although the club would have the option of placing the franchise tag on him again for a one-year tender of nearly $13 million for 2013 (mandatory 20 percent increase on this year's salary).
It's a complicated matter because of the finances, including with the NFL's salary cap. The Lions have mega-bucks stars such as Calvin Johnson and Matthew Stafford, and they also have numerous key players eligible to become free agents after this season.
Besides Avril, that group includes safety Louis Delmas, defensive tackle Corey Williams, linebackers DeAndre Levy and Justin Durant, cornerbacks Chris Houston and Aaron Berry, and offensive tackle Gosder Cherilus.
Even if the Lions want to keep Avril for the long term, the price tag has to be right under the circumstances.
A cap hit of $13 million in 2013 is extreme, which means there's a good chance the Lions won't place the franchise tag on him again next year, and then risk losing him in free agency.