With 30 sacks in his first four seasons, Cliff Avril has become one of the league’s rising defensive stars, and will undoubtedly end up with a major contract at some point in the near future. For the time being however, Avril will be playing without much in the way of financial security on his one year franchise tag tender, which only guarantees him $10.6 million.
Avril publicly pushed for his freedom last off-season, taking up his case with the media several times to air his displeasure in having to continually prove himself worthy of a major extension from the Lions, only to eventually end up signing the tender to avoid the punitive fines that come with a holdout in the regular season.
A collegiate standout at Purdue, Avril is primed to earn a massive contract on the open market at season’s end regardless of his stats this year, as players with a lesser track record have received significant contracts in recent years. A deal from this past off-season that will likely be the benchmark for Avril’s representation is six year, $100 million contract that fellow defensive end Mario Williams signed with Buffalo, as Williams had totaled less than 10 sacks in each of the three previous seasons but was still able to earn himself a life changing payday.
Detroit have plenty of time to work at keeping Avril around long term, as they can try to negotiate a new deal with him all season long. Whether Avril chooses to agree to an extension or not though is his decision, and given the crazy amounts of money that teams are willing to throw around once free agency commences, he may choose to hang in the hope that the Lions won’t tag him as their franchise player once again.
Avril, 26, is the only player in the league to total at least 19.5 sacks, nine deflected passes, seven forced fumbles, and four forced fumbles in the past two seasons. Those kind of statistics will undoubtedly give the Lions pause before choosing to let Avril walk away with no compensation back in return, and given the effort they’d have to expend to find a player capable of replacing Avril’s production for their defense, taking care of him with a well deserved extension makes sense on almost every level.
One way or another though, Avril is going to be rewarded with a contract that is fitting for his level of talent and production on the field, and whichever team ends up with his services long term will be grateful to have him in the fold. Whether that’s Detroit or someplace else is anyone’s best guess for now.
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