Cliff Avril Saga: Lions Fans Should Keep an Eye on the New England Patriots
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With the news today that the Detroit Lions have placed the non-exclusive version of the franchise tag on DE Cliff Avril the Lions now have bought themselves time to get a long-term deal done in order to avoid the $10.6 million he is owed in 2012.
This, by most accounts, was the expected result if a long term deal was not able to be reached by the 4 PM deadline today. The Lions brass repeatedly stated that their desire was to have Avril in Honolulu Blue for the foreseeable future.
However, with the non-exclusive tag comes a caveat: other teams are now able to negotiate with Avril. The key word here being negotiate, not sign. The Lions still hold the right to match any offer that another team makes.
If the Lions choose not to try and match a contract offer and allow Avril to leave, they would receive compensation from the offering team in the form of two first round draft picks.
While this is a lot to give up, people need to realize that pass rushers of Avril's physical talent just are not available very often, especially when they're only 25 years old and entering the prime of their career.
There are three teams in this years draft that have two first round picks: Cleveland, Cincinnati and New England. It wouldn't make sense for Cleveland to give up the 4th pick in the draft so let's discount them. The Bengal's two picks are in the middle of the first round at 17 and 21, so it's unlikely that they would be a candidate either.
But the New England Patriots have two first round picks later in the round at 27 and 31 and, more importantly, they have a desperate need for a legitimate pass rusher.
Is Avril worth the two late first round picks that the Patriots hold?
The league's second worst defense gave up nearly 300 yards per game in 2012 through the air during the regular season (the numbers got worse in the post season) while netting 40 sacks. The sack number is actually decent, but is pretty misleading. If you watched Patriots games last season you would have seen a team that failed to consistently put pressure on opposing QB's.
Enter Cliff Avril who had 11 sacks alone and a ridiculous 6 forced fumbles. Not only that, but his numbers have steadily increased every year since entering the league which shows that his incredible season was not the result of it being a contract year for him, but merely the development of a young, talented, player.
When you take into account that Avril has the size and athleticism to succeed in either a 4-3 as a DE or the 3-4 as a rush linebacker, you have someone who is perfect for the New England Patriots.
I know a lot of Lions fans think that Avril wouldn't succeed without the assistance of the Lions line and the double teams that the interior defensive lineman consistently take. It is a valid point, but New England's, Vince Wilfork is a man among boys and would provide similar assistance to Avril.
Teams still do not know the final 2012 salary cap number (which is expected soon), but with speculation that the Patriots could only have current contract commitments of $102.6 million (compliments of Profootballtalk.com) and the cap estimated to be above $120 million, there is plenty of room for the Patriots to complete a deal with Avril.
While it goes against the general philosophy the Patriots have shown over the years, two picks at the end of the first round very well could be enough to give up for a proven commodity like Avril.
It may be a long shot, but the always crafty Patriots need to be on radar of Detroit fans in the coming weeks as that is the most logical team to swoop in and steal the talented Cliff Avril.
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