Originally posted on The Detroit Sports Site  |  Last updated 3/6/13
Cliff Avril is all but certain to hit free agency next week, and the Cleveland Browns look like they’ll be one of the first teams to give him a call. Mary Kay Cabot of The Plain Dealer reported Wednesday that the Browns are interested in both Avril and Baltimore’s Paul Kruger. Avril, a defensive end, will also be a hot ticket come Tuesday. But the Browns might have the inside track, because their new defensive line coach Joe Cullen helped draft Avril, 26, in Detroit in 2008 and developed him as a rookie. That season, Avril led all rookies with six sacks and four forced fumbles. One key piece of info here: The Browns are planning to move to a 3-4 defense from a 3-4, which leaves them thin at outside linebacker. Presumably, that’s where they would want to play Avril — he played there some at Purdue and projected as a DE/OLB hybrid when he entered the NFL. The Lions have used him as a 4-3 end since drafting him. Avril made nearly $11 million as a franchise-tagged player last year, and Cabot speculates that Kruger could wind up fetching around $9 million per year on his new contract. That’s probably a starting point for Avril, who looks to be the top pass-rusher available in free agency. A caveat to Avril and Kruger’s values is that the draft is loaded with rush-linebacker/end types, so any team feeling that the pot is too rich in free agency may opt to go that route in April’s draft.
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