|Detroit could franchise Avril and he might choose to hold out. (US PRESSWIRE)|
By Ryan Wilson
On Friday, Lions defensive end Cliff Avril admitted that he had no idea if the team would franchise him after his 11-sack, six-forced-fumbles effort in 2011, but made it clear that "I want a deal, obviously." Not long after, the Detroit Free Press' Dave Birkett reported that two sources close to the negotiations "stopped short of saying Avril definitely will be tagged, both said that’s the likely outcome if the two sides don’t agree on a long-term deal before March 5, the deadline for applying the tag."
On Saturday, Avril again reiterated that he's not particularly jazzed about the possibility of playing on a one-year contract, even one that would pay him around $10.6 million in 2012. In fact, he might consider holding out.
"There's a lot of different possibilities, and that's one of the possibilities -- not showing up," Avril said of missing off-season workouts and training camp (via the Free Press' Carlos Monarrez. "But we don't know. That's not the plan, obviously. But there's a lot of different possibilities, and that's definitely one of them."
Well, the Lions can officially tag whomever they want starting Monday, February 20 and they'll have two weeks to do so until free agency begins on March 5. Monarro writes that Avril "likely wants a long-term deal that would pay him about $12 million per season," something in line with the contracts signed by the Panthers' Charles Johnson and the Chiefs' Tamba Hali last year.
Avril had a fantastic 2011 that included a dominating performance against the Broncos and Tim Tebow in Week 8 when he recorded two sacks, and turned a forced fumble into a 24-yard touchdown. "I know it's the NFL," he said. "People make promises. It's a business. People tell you one thing one year and it might not be the same thing next year. It's expected. But the whole thing last year is I wanted a deal. They basically told me you need to do this, that and third or whatever as far as playing and being productive. I feel like I did that. Obviously it doesn't stop right here, but I do want to be compensated for the work that I'm putting in. That's all."
Fair points, all of them. But here's what the Lions might be thinking: Yes, Avril went off last season, but he also played next to some combination of Ndamukong Suh, Corey Williams, Nick Fairely and Andre Fluellen. They combined for seven sacks at defensive tackle. And Avril played opposite Kyle Vanden Bosch, and he had eight sacks.
"I don't want to be franchised," Avril said. "That's basically what I got last year. The tender was basically the same thing. I just want security and longevity."
Ultimately, Avril's fate may be out of his hands. He can holdout to express his unhappiness but it's seldom a successful strategy to get a new contract, and usually ends up with the organization threatening to fine the player for missed practices and workouts. The most recent exception: Chris Johnson sat comfortably on his couch until the Titans blinked and overpaid him. Johnson, one of the league's best running backs heading into 2011, responded by rushing for 1,047 yards on 262 carries (4.0 average) and just four touchdowns.
We get Avrils' frustration but should it get to that point, it might be in his best interest to sign the $10.6 million franchise tender and spend the spring and summer trying to hammer out a long-term deal.
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