Originally posted on Fox Sports Detroit  |  Last updated 3/5/12
ALLEN PARK, Mich. The Lions and defensive end Cliff Avril were working under a negotiating deadline to reach an agreement on a contract Monday and avoid putting the franchise tag on Avril. The deadline for applying the tag is 4 p.m. Monday. Avril had his best year in four seasons with the Lions in 2011. He led the team with 11 sacks, a career high, and had six forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries and one interception. General Manager Martin Mayhew said at the recent NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis that using the franchise tag would be a last resort. Franchising him is not a good option for us, Mayhew said. The only worse option is playing without him. We dont want to play without him. As a franchise player, Avril would have a salary of 10.6 million for 2012. The free-agent signing period begins on March 13. Putting the tag on Avril would prevent him from becoming an unrestricted free agent. At an appearance in Metro Detroit last month, Avril has said he would consider holding out if the franchise tag is applied. Avril also has said he does not want to leave Detroit. Under terms of the collective bargaining agreement, once the franchise tag is applied, a player has until July 15 to sign a long-term contract with the team. If a contract is not negotiated before July 15, the player must play the season on the one-year, 10.6-million salary. The franchise tag has negative implications for Avril and the Lions. Playing on a one-year contract exposes a player to the risk of injury, which would diminish his value on the free-agent market in 2013. On the Lions side, the 10.6-million salary would put a strain on their salary cap. A long-term deal would reduce the impact this year, based on the proration of a signing bonus and base salaries spread over several seasons. The Lions have key players who are eligible to become free agents on March 13. The Lions want to re-sign middle linebacker Stephen Tulloch, cornerback Eric Wright, offensive tackle Jeff Backus and backup quarterback Shaun Hill. They also have been negotiating a long-term extension for wide receiver Calvin Johnson, who will be on the last year of his contract in 2012.
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