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This is perhaps the biggest opportunity for the Lions to recover some cap room this offseason, as two of the three biggest cap hits of the defensive line, and two of the six biggest hits on the entire team (Cliff Avril and Corey Williams) will be off the books.
Avril and Williams combined accounted for just under $16 million against the salary cap last season. Avril played a solid but lackluster season on the franchise tag, while Williams played in less of the team's games while injured.
If the Lions want either player back in 2013 (which is possible), they should be at a fraction of what they made in 2012. Williams is aging, and Avril did not show the ability to affect games the way he did in 2011.
Kyle Vanden Bosch is also a player in line for either a cut or a pay cut. Vanden Bosch cost $4.6 million against the cap in 2012, and that number goes way up next year.
Vanden Bosch has been playing less snaps per game in an attempt to help sustain his health and motor when he does take field; but at age 35, there's no doubt Vanden Bosch is in a decline that borders on free-falling.
The Lions' blind side pass-rusher accounted for 3.5 sacks last season, and most of those were clean-ups from other defenders' pressures. That's not what the Lions wanted from the man who was the 10th highest-paid player on the team last season.
Luckily, the Lions are in position to take a premier edge rusher (like Bjoern Werner or Damontre Moore) in the draft to replace either Avril or Vanden Bosch. Better yet, the new rookie wage scale ensures that the Lions won't be crushed by yet another highly-paid rookie contract.
Justin Blackmon, the fifth overall pick in 2012, had to hold out to earn himself a deal worth $18.5 million over four years. That works out yearly to exactly what the team paid Vanden Bosch last season.
In other words, the Lions could potentially get 10 years younger at the defensive end position by replacing a declining high-motor veteran with a potentially elite-tier rookie, for the same amount of money.
For a team built around the pass rush, that seems like a reasonable move.