Detroit Lions' Cliff Avrils Seeks 4-year, $42 Million Deal, but It's a Little Early for That

Avril was a Monster in 2011. He Deserves to Cash In, but He Needs at Least One More Solid Year Before Being Shown the Money

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COMMENTARY| It was rumored that the Detroit Lions entertained the thought of dealing defensive end Cliff Avril during the 2012 NFL Draft. He would have likely been a valuable trading tool, too.

And it's safe to say that Avril's pursuit of a financially-advantageous deal had something to do with those discussions. However, if the 6-foot-3, 252-pound former Purdue star reaches an agreement with the Lions, he could be in Detroit for another four years, according to reports. If not, he'll make nearly $11 million in 2012 and be let free to roam.

Avril and the Lions are about $2 million apart in terms of reaching Avril's ideal number. He's seeking a four-year, $42 million payday, with half of that guaranteed. Should the Lions give in, they'd be making a worthwhile, yet premature, investment in the team's pass-rush defense. Avril had an incredible season in 2011, vaulting his stock and creating leverage to negotiate.

He started 16 games for the Lions, who went 10-6 and boasted a formidable, yet improved, defense. Avril recorded a career-high 30 tackles and was second in the NFL with two non-defensive touchdowns (fumble recovery and interception). And don't forget about the sacks, either. Avril was among league leaders with 11, his highest single-season total to date.

The 26-year-old has reportedly been offered a one-year, $10.6 million deal from Detroit. Why not spend the extra money and lock up one of the NFC's developing quarterback hunters? He has the potential to wreak havoc for years to come. It makes sense, right?

Not entirely. There is quite a bit more than that, actually.

With a long-term deal comes uncertainty. Avril deserves to cash in eventually, but he hasn't put together the resume of other top-tier pass-rushing defenders. And, of course, there's always potential for injury. That may be one of the hurdles in his deal - the Lions may not be sure of his ability to stay off the disabled list during the term of the proposed four-year deal. There are always hang-ups when it comes to big-dollar contracts.

Here is how some of the NFL's best pass-rushers are paid, according to MLive.com

  • Charles Johnson, DE, Carolina Panthers - 6 years, $72 million ($30 million guaranteed)
  • Elvis Dumervil, DE, Denver Broncos - 5 years, $61.5 million ($43 million guaranteed)
  • Mario Williams, DE, Buffalo Bills - 6 years, $96 million ($50 million guaranteed)
  • Cameron Wake, LB, Miami Dolphins - 4 years, $49 million ($20 million guaranteed)
  • Tamba Hali, LB, Kansas City Chiefs - 5 years, $60 million ($35 million guaranteed)
  • DeMarcus Ware, LB, Dallas Cowboys - 6 years, $78 million ($40 million guaranteed)
  • Trent Cole, DE, Philadelphia Eagles - 4 years, $48 million ($14.5 million guaranteed)
  • Lamarr Woodley, LB, Pittsburgh Steelers - 6 years, $61.5 million ($22.5 million guaranteed)

Avril may not be as effective as Woodley, one of the NFL's Top 100 players. He may not be close to Williams, either. Ware is in another league, too. But that's not to say the Lions should snub Avril's proposal. The deal could be revisited later in the year. Avril probably has no other choice but to wait.

Former Detroit Lions tight end Rob Rubick was featured on WXYZ-Detroit's Draft Day special and pulls no punches when it comes to talking about his old team. Rubick understands Avril's way of thinking. But he suggests that fans, and Avril, take a look at the bigger picture: A one-year, $10.6 million deal would benefit both sides, with a slight edge given to the Lions, of course.

"(The Lions) are trying to get to 2013 or 2014 when the cap takes like a 30-percent jump," Rubick said. "Right now, they don't have the money to pay him. I know Cliff wanted that security…

Let's say he does get a bad injury; he's done. I think (Lions president) Tom Lewand and the Lions want to sign him to a long-term deal, but it's like the school systems in Michigan - there is no money to fund it. I look for maybe during the season for them to try to work with him. But I think Cliff would also be patient and maybe go to next season and check the free-agent market. But he really needs to have another year like last year."

Avril is a hard player to assess, especially for Lions fans who gravitated toward him this past season. After a successful year - the best season in about 20 years, actually - fans became emotional. They wanted to see key contributors get their dues. That's understandable from a fan's view, I suppose. Avril became a favorite among the Honolulu Blue supporters. He gave as much effort, it not more, than anyone on the defense.

But the reality is this: He hasn't demonstrated a long-term ability to command the type of money he's looking for. One great year isn't cause for the Lions to break the bank. If Avril is patient, and productive, he'll get the financial security he's looking for.

Adam Biggers has followed the NFL for over 20 years, specifically the Detroit Lions. He can be found on Twitter @AdamBiggers81.

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