The Detroit Lions have possibly the best defensive line in the NFL. With Kyle Vanden Bosch, Corey Williams and Ndamukong Suh demanding four or five blockers, Cliff Avril has been free to fight one on one with offensive tackles, tight ends and running backs. It will be a priority for Martin Mayhew to re-sign Avril this off season. However, if he burns his bridges with Avril for some reason, or if someone offers Avril serious money then Mayhew will look very closely at signing Ray Edwards.
Ray Edwards has been a very dangerous pass rusher for the Vikings for two seasons. He has had back to back eight sack seasons. He is a young player at only 26. He is a similar player to Avril, as his primary weapon is his speed. However, he also has a wide wing span and contains the run well. He also learnt a wide array of pass rushing moves from Jared Allen.
In a perfect world, the Minnesota Vikings would not allow Edwards to go to free agency. However, unlike last season he will be an unrestricted free agent, and they will probably use their franchise tag on Sidney Rice. Because Edwards believes that the Vikings mistreated him, contract negotiations between the two parties are unlikely to succeed.
Edwards was also suspended for four games in 2007 for testing positive for steroids. This is a character red flag which Avril does not have. He has been clean since then, and his performance has been better after his suspension.
Because Ray Edwards is a more polished pass rusher and a better run container than Cliff Avril, signing him would improve the Lions defensive line even more. He would give the defensive tackles a greater freedom to get after the passer too because he can handle the run better.
Because of Avril's loyalty to the Lions, it would be stupid not to re-sign him if it were possible. If that becomes impossible, then signing Edwards would be just as good. However, Edwards is also sure to be more expensive than Avril will. Avril bleeds Honolulu blue, so might just lower his asking rate to stay. He is also a one year wonder at the moment. Edwards will have probably five or more suitors in the off season, so his price will be bumped up.
Mayhew could sign Edwards and Avril as insurance for Vanden Bosch's retirement. The group of Williams, Suh, Avril and Edwards could stay together for five to ten years, and become a hallmark of Lions football as the next awesome foursome. The cost of signing both Edwards and Avril could compromise signing a corner back or linebacker and the Lions have good depth at defensive end with Turk McBride and Sammie Lee Hill waiting in the wings. For these reasons a double signing is unlikely to happen.
In conclusion, Edwards would be a good sign if it becomes impossible to bring back Avril. He is a better run defender, but will ask for a higher price. Mayhew wont seriously consider it until the second week of free agency.
Odds of being in Honolulu blue in 2011: 30%
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