While fellow NFC North Franchise Tag player Matt Forte got paid, Cliff Avril did not.
This wasn't a complete shock, as even last week, Avril was feeling iffy on whether a deal would be made. What is surprising in some respects is the rumor that he left a three-year, $30 million deal on the table ($18 million guaranteed) is a bit more surprising.
It seems clear to me that Avril will eventually sign his tender and play it out. This is a mistake.
Avril is taking a big risk by leaving this money on the table.
Yes he had a good season in 2011, with career highs in tackles (29), sacks (11), forced fumbles (six) and fumble recoveries (three). He also had his first interception.
It was also the first time he played a complete season in four years.
That said, his speed and the way he fits into the defense makes him valuable. Still, he's playing a bit of a dangerous game for several reasons.
First, there's the obvious risk of injury. While there is no predicting that, playing under a one-year tender brings with it the risk of being hurt and watching your value plummet.
It's entirely possible that, if he were to be badly injured, he wouldn't get the deal he was reportedly offered. He would get less. Either a one-year deal so he could prove his health or a lower money deal for mostly the same reason.
Like I said, you cannot predict injury, so this is a problem he'd face either way, but with a contract, he'd be protected and still get $18 of his $30 million even if his career ended.
Avril should have:
Another factor is the up-and-down nature of sack totals. Offensive lines adjust every game, forget every season, and now they have a year's worth of tape and an offseason to determine how to slow or stop Avril.
In his favor is the fact that with players like Kyle Vanden Bosch, Ndamukong Suh, Corey Williams, Justin Durant and Deandre Levy, he has lots of other players to distract the offensive line.
However, that's also a ton of people to cut into his stats, most notably Ndamukong Suh, who will be moved around all over the line.
There is a good chance he will not increase his sack totals this year, though I won't go as far as to say he will have them drop. But again, sack totals go up and down frequently, and it's better to strike while you're hot than not.
His fumbles, forced fumbles and tackles are also changeable numbers and could drop as easily as go up.
Finally, while Avril had a great 2011, who's to say Lawrence Jackson or Willie Young won't have the good 2012?
Jackson in particular had similar numbers in 2010 in less games. If Jackson can stay healthy and Avril lets up at all, we could be talking about Jackson's year and money, not Avril's.
I've a lot of respect for Avril and the way he has conducted himself during this process as well as the way he has done so since what must have been a disappointment of a Monday.
That said, had he taken the money, he would have had at least one more chance to cash in, when his contract was up in 2014 and he was just 29.
I also respect a guy willing to bet on himself. That confidence is part of what makes him a good player.
That said, it would have been wiser to take the money now and have another chance to hit it big in three years, with a chunk of money to protect himself now.