Seattle Seahawks general manager John Schneider may have executed the most magnificent heist of the NFL's free-agency period by signing edge-rusher Cliff Avril to a two-year deal worth—ready?—$15 million.
The former Detroit Lions pass-rushing menace, a 26-year-old who's accumulated 29 sacks and nine forced fumbles over the past three seasons, was expected to garner a much longer and more lucrative contract on the open market.
Respected NBC Sports analyst Evan Silva ranked Avril as this year's No. 3 free agent and predicted he would receive a five-year, $64 million contract.
On March 13, ESPN's Adam Schefter sent out this tweet:
Lions DE Cliff Avril is on a flight to Seattle to take his first visit with the Seahawks.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 13, 2013
Minutes later, NFL Network's Albert Breer sent shockwaves through the already buzzing Twitterverse with this:
Cliff Avril has agreed to terms with Seattle, per source.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) March 13, 2013
A barrage of "that escalated quickly" tweets appeared on timelines everywhere, and rightfully so. Soon thereafter, CBS Sports' Will Brinson appropriately reacted:
Cliff Avril got $15M for two years???John Schneider is a frigging Jedi.— Will Brinson (@willbrinson) March 14, 2013
It's important to remember that the Lions reportedly offered Avril a three-year, $30 million deal last year, a deal he ultimately refused with his sights set on more money.
Instead, he played under a $10.6 million franchise tag in 2012.
ESPN's NFC West blogger Mike Sando opined on the Avril move, and this was one of the more intriguing points he made:
There is some thought the Lions' scheme should get a disproportionate amount of credit for those sack totals in part because it calls for defensive ends to line up wider than usual, freeing them from some of the traditional duties associated with the position. Seattle has done a good job playing to players' strengths on defense.
Sando went on to say, "the short length of the deal suggests Avril is settling for a lower annual salary figure in exchange for a chance at hitting the market again at age 28. That should work out well for the Seahawks, who must think about long-term deals for current members of their defense, which led the NFL in points allowed."
Avril likely loved the environment he'd join in Seattle and figured he could accumulate similar sack numbers as a member of the Seahawks vaunted defense, which would enable him to strike it super rich in 2015.
Sports Illustrated's Chris Burke gave the move a "B-plus," stating "the Seahawks did not overpay on the deal." He added:
Avril could help at the “Leo” in Seattle’s defense — a stand-up rush role in what’s essentially a hybrid 4-3/3-4 approach. The Seahawks have Chris Clemons to play that role, but he’s coming back off a torn ACL and may not be ready for the start of 2013.
Seattle also has Bruce Irvin to fill that role, and he delivered 8.0 sacks in his rookie season. Irvin and Avril could see lots of time together early in pass-rushing situations, with one replacing run-stopper Red Bryant up front.
Avril is undeniably a fine player with the length and athleticism to be a double-digit sack guy for the Seahawks. Due to the reasonable contract he was signed to, Seattle's GM John Schneider has begun his campaign for the Executive of the Year award he missed out on in 2012.