It has recently been reported that Cliff Avril has turned down significant multi-year offers from the Detroit Lions. It’s reasonable that Cliff Avril did not want to sign the franchise tag the Lions pinned on him as it does not offer Avril long term security, however Avril’s demands are becoming unreasonable.
Reports indicate that Avril feels his production (11 sacks and six forced fumbles) warrants him top five defensive end money. The Lions can’t afford to pay him top five defensive end money if they intend to sign their other key contributors long term. Matthew Stafford’s contract expires after the 2014 season and if Calvin Johnson, a wide receiver, signed a $150 million contract, then you can imagine the contract Stafford will receive playing quarterback. Don’t forget about re-signing Ndamukong Suh, who will more than likely ask to be the top paid defensive linemen in the NFL, and any other future draft picks that the Lions like.
With that said, the Lions have two options moving foward, option one: Pay the man, or option two: trade the man. If the Lions choose option one and decide they can’t afford to lose Avril (which I don’t think they will as they have talented backups like Willie Young), then they are going to be in salary cap hell for years to come and they will most likely have to lose another star player in the future. Option two is much more positive, especially with the 2012 draft coming up this Thursday. If a team is willing to give the Lions a first round draft pick (which I’m sure will be the asking price), then the Lions will have the ability to draft the cornerback they prefer as well as an offensive lineman, or possibly Avril’s replacement, perhaps Mercilus Whitney, who the Lions are very interested in.
There is a catch in option two however and that lies with Cliff Avril himself. Detroit can’t trade Avril unless he signs the franchise tag tender or agrees to a long term deal. If Detroit can find a team willing to give up a first round pick for Avril, would Avril would be willing to do a sign and trade? A sign and trade would allow the Lions to aquire the first round draft pick they desire, as well as possibly getting Avril the long term security he’s after. It would be a win-win for both Avril and the Lions.
Acquiring two first round picks to draft a corner and another position of need would improve the team and give the Lions flexibility to sign their other star players in the future, as well as future free agents if they chose to do so. I’m very much a fan of Avril and would love to have him back with the Lions, but only for the right price. Unfortunately, the NFL is ultimately a business, and the great teams find ways to stay great without having to pay ridiculous amounts of money.
Perhaps a sign and trade would be too complex for this year’s draft, but the idea of freeing up cap space and aquiring an extra first round pick has to be enticing to the Lions. The Lions should look back at the Patriots when they traded Richard Seymour for a first round pick, when deciding how to handle Cliff Avril. The Patrioits refuse to overpay players and as a result they have been one of the most successful franchises in the NFL. Will the Lions buy into the Patriots philosophy, or will the Lions give in to Avril’s demands? The direction the Lions decide to go will no doubt have a major impact on the franchise’s future success.