One of the biggest question marks for the Detroit Lions this offseason is what will happen with defensive end Cliff Avril. He is set to become a free agent in March after having the best season of his career. Avril is expected to get a big payday, but right now it's not clear if that payday will come from the Lions or another team.
If there was no salary cap, Avril would probably already be signed to a long-term deal. Because the Lions are operating with a small amount of cap space and have a lot of big contracts already on the books, his return is less certain. The Lions definitely sound like they want to bring Avril back (see Jim Schwartz's comments later in this post), but if the price isn't right, they may not be able to.
For what it's worth, Avril would like to stay with the Lions and for right now is operating under the assumption that he will be back.
"I'm preparing like I'm going to be here," Avril said. "I still got my stuff here."
Avril also said that it's not necessarily up to him. A big part of this situation revolves around what the Lions offer him, so how it plays out will only partly be in his hands. Of course, if the Lions decide to franchise him, he'll be back with the Lions for at least one more year and his status for 2012 will be completely out of his hands.
Again, if the salary aspect wasn't an issue, Avril would for sure be coming back. The Lions haven't come right out and said that, but it's not tough to read between the lines of Schwartz's comments from earlier in the week.
"It's one thing to have double-digit sacks, but Cliff had more of an impact than just that because of the forced fumbles. It goes hand-in-hand with getting sacks a lot of times, but Cliff has a knack for it and that gave us a big push. We didn't finish the way we wanted to defensively, but we got a lot of turnovers and Cliff was a big part of that. I think Cliff is also a guy that was drafted before I got here, but we've developed him. He's developed with us, he's become a better player every year, he's added to his arsenal every year and he's been a hard worker. I think in all of those things we recognize and we certainly aspire to have as many good players - particularly young guys like Cliff - around here for as long as we can, but it's January. It's early January and we've still got a long way to go before we start talking about free agency and everything else."
Personally, I'm really hoping the Lions and Avril can work something out. Avril is a great player on the field and a great guy off of it, and he is someone I hope to see in a Lions jersey for years to come.