Earlier today, our Chris Czar gave a good breakdown and discussion of a lot of the comments made by Cliff Avril on SiriusXM NFL Radio. However, there is one seemingly innocuous comment that has potentially huge ramifications and warrants and investigation by the league office.
Here it is from Avril:
I kind of think the Lions will try to do the right thing, I guess. A lot of teams don’t think the Lions will let me hit free agency. But a few teams have called.
A few teams have called? That’s tampering and that’s a big deal.
You may recall that the Lions were ruled guilty of tampering a year ago when Gunther Cunningham made comments to the media in regards to a player under contract with the Kansas City Chiefs. The Lions were forced to swap fifth round picks with the Chiefs and were originally stripped of their seventh round pick before having it reinstated on appeal. All that despite not having any impermissible communication with the player directly.
The transgressions suggested by Cliff Avril’s words are far more serious. First of all, he implicates that more than one team has called. Second of all, this severely undermines the Lions in what should be an exclusive window for negotiating with Avril as the team’s own free agent. There is no reason to believe that Avril and the Lions don’t want to stay together, the only problem comes in making it work financially. Who’s to say that the sides might find something each can live with only to have impermissible communications thwart that effort by suggesting larger dollars could be available elsewhere?
Such a suggestion is an ever bigger problem considering it can’t come in the concrete form of a contract offer. Whether or not the Lions lose Avril as a result of tampering is irrelevant. If Avril’s comments are true, at least two NFL clubs are interfering with the Lions business without having any skin in the game. Simply driving up the Lions’ price could be considered a win for those engaging in tampering. The very process the league has set up in undermined if contact with a pending free agent is allowed to be swept under the rug.
It would be disappointing if the league office hasn’t already been on the phone with Avril and his representation. The Lions were dealt with severely considering the nature of the infraction and the league now has a real opportunity to nip this in the bud. Stay tuned.
[UPDATE] The Detroit Free Press posted an article at 1 p.m. in which Cliff Avril clarified his comment. He says the following:
No other teams, per se, like general managers or anybody has called me or anything like that. But I know a lot of guys that I’ve played with or guys that have seen me play have told me that their coaches have brought me up in a sense of, ‘Dang, that guy can play; wouldn’t mind having him-type thing.’ Never official-type things or anything like that.
The Free Press also reports that NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said the comments are hearsay and therefore can’t be the basis of a tampering charge.