The Detroit Lions have until July 15 to agree to a multi-year deal with Cliff Avril or he will play under the one-year, $10.6 million franchise tender. One of the recent defensive end contracts that is often used as a point of reference in the Avril situation is that of Carolina Panther Charles Johnson. Take this into consideration, from The Post Game on Yahoo! Sports:
Aaron Rodgers, Eli Manning and Tom Brady got many of the NFL headlines a year ago, but it was a mostly unknown, Carolina Panthers defensive end Charles Johnson, who led the way in overall pro football compensation. Johnson earned a stunning $34 million during the 2011 season, the first of a six-year, $72 million contract.
Johnson’s big payday in 2011 was due in part to the $30 million signing bonus so he will fall down the list starting next year but it highlights the huge financial commitment from the Panthers. Are the Lions willing to go that far? It seems unlikely that they are, otherwise a long term agreement would have been reached prior to the franchise tag deadline.
This offseason has brought about two interesting examples in the way the Lions have dealt with the contract situations of two important players.
Stephen Tulloch, and other free agent linebackers, sought a deal in the neighborhood of the one D’Qwell Jackson got from the Cleveland Browns. They gave Jackson a five-year, $42.5 million contract to keep him off the free agent market. Instead of blindly accepting Jackson’s deal as a reference point for a Tulloch deal, the Lions were patient and ultimately re-signed Tulloch for five years and $25.5 million after a Jackson-sized market never developed. The Browns and D’Qwell Jackson may have set a precedent, but that didn’t mean the Lions had to follow it.
The Lions’ dealing with Tulloch was about being shrewd, not cheap. They proved they are anything but cheap in making Calvin Johnson the highest paid wide receiver in league history and put him among the highest paid players in the league, regardless of position. CJ is the best, they know it and they stepped up to pay him like it.
Cliff Avril likely falls in the middle of these two examples. The big unknown is how much Cliff Avril could command on the open market but defensive ends, particularly young and productive defensive ends, have little problem finding suitors. It only takes one team to fall in love and throw big bucks at a player like Avril and letting him enter free agency would be a gamble. That doesn’t mean the Lions should feel pressured into filling a wheelbarrow full of money just to keep him off the market. Ultimately, the Lions will have to set a limit that they are willing to approach independent of league-wide precedent and be ready to face the consequences. For better or worse.