Today marks the first day that teams can start applying the franchise and transition tags to their players. It comes right as talk has really started to heat up about whether or not the Detroit Lions will franchise defensive end Cliff Avril. Last Friday, it was reported by the Detroit Free Press that the Lions will likely franchise Avril if a long-term deal isn't reached. A day later, Avril said he probably won't report to camp if he is in fact franchised.
Unsurprisingly, the news about Avril and the franchise tag has caused quite the firestorm. Some fans think the Lions should just move on and not deal with the headache of a potential holdout. Others believe applying the tag and retaining Avril is the right move regardless of the possibility of a holdout. There is also the camp that thinks the Lions should do whatever it takes to make a deal happen so the franchise tag won't come into play, but that is obviously easier said than done.
It's worth noting that teams have until March 5 to designate their franchise and transition players. This could especially be important for the Lions and their negotiations with Avril. It is my belief that Avril will receive the franchise tag if a long-term deal isn't agreed to, and March 5 is essentially the deadline for the negotiations. If the two sides still haven't agreed to a deal by then, the Lions either have to franchise him or risk letting him hit the open market with no restrictions on March 13. If that happens, I don't see the Lions being able to make an offer that is competitive enough to retain Avril.
The threat of a holdout aside, franchising Avril is the right move in my mind. If no deal is done and the Lions truly want to bring Avril back, their best bet is to franchise him. If something happened where another team valued him so much that they made an offer the Lions couldn't match, then they would at least get two first-round picks as compensation. That seems unlikely, so in reality franchising Avril will simply give the Lions more time to negotiate a long-term deal with him. If March 5 came and went and Avril still wasn't franchised, the pressure would be on the Lions to get something done in the next eight days before the start of free agency. At that point, Avril would be better off waiting to hit the open market, as he would likely get a bigger deal elsewhere.
When it comes down to it, I do think Avril will be a Lion next season, and I don't think there will be a holdout. In all likelihood, something will be worked out, and the franchise tag could actually help the negotiations by putting some pressure on both sides to get a deal done. What do you think will happen?