The time has come and gone for the Lions to sign Cliff Avril to a long term deal, and while no deal was struck with Avril, the Lions have allowed themselves future financial flexibility to re-sign star players like Stafford and Suh, and any future free agents.
By not re-signing Avril to a long term deal the Lions have guaranteed Avril’s services for the year, maintaining their team chemistry and have given themselves more time to decide what to ultimately do with Avril.
If Avril continues to improve it will be hard for the Lions to let Avril walk after next season, but the Lions could always find a way to sign and trade Avril for future picks or players. If this were the case, the Lions will have handled Avril’s contract situation perfectly.
Holding off on an extension with Avril for 2012 should give the Lions enough time to try and develop back up defensive end Willy Young if the Lions decided to replace Avril. Also, if Avril’s production improves and they decide to replace Avril with Young, the Lions could get some serious value in a trade to help improve the team.
If Avril’s production declines in 2012 and the Lions continue their winning ways, than Avril will lose his leverage in contract negotiations and the Lions should have a strong chance of signing Avril for a more reasonable price. In doing so, the Lions will be able to maintain their key players and have some cap room to add where they see fit.
Most fans, including myself, would love to see Avril stay in Detroit, but only for the right price. Avril is all about the team and he is the kind of high character guy the Lions need in the locker room.
The worst thing that could happen for the Lions is that Avril preforms well next season and they can’t find a way to get picks or players for him in a trade. Losing a marque player like Avril and not receiving anything in return for his departure could be tough to overcome. However, the Lions would still have some financial flexibility to make some deals in free agency to fill the void left by Avril.
Let’s hope the Lions channel their inner New England Patriots and find the best solution to improve the team.