It has been rumored that the Detroit Lions would lose defensive end Cliff Avril to free agency. The Lions put those rumors to bed for now by placing their non-exclusive franchise tag on him.
Avril will still be able to discuss with other teams about a possible move via free agency but the Lions will have the option of matching any offer he receives. If Detroit decides to let Avril depart to another team then they will be compensated quality draft picks.
In 2011, Avril recorded 36 tackles (29 solo, seven assisted), six forced fumbles, 11 sacks and one interception. There is no doubt he is one of the Lions biggest threats on defense and played a big part in Detroit’s first playoff appearance since 1999.
Obviously, the Lions had no choice but to franchise Avril because they can in no way afford to lose him. The Lions’ defensive line is one of the most ferocious in the NFL but subtracting Avril from that lineup could be detrimental to the team. Anytime a team loses the ability to pressure the opposing quarterback can really mess with the defensive balance, just ask the Green Bay Packers. Considering Avril represented a fourth of the team’s 41 total sacks, losing him could weaken the squad immensely.
Franchised defensive ends are contractually obligated to be paid $10.6 million. According to sources, Detroit general manager Martin Mayhew had no intentions of using the tag while Avril made it clear he did not want to be franchised. Avril stated last month that it should surprise no one if he sat out the Lions’ training camp if the team did indeed use the franchise tag on him.
Avril was expected to get big money once he hit free agency next week and obviously recent events have changed that. Expect things to get heated in the ensuing weeks between the Lions and Avril.