Deadline fast approaching for Lions, Avril

Two sides must complete a new deal before defensive end is forced to accept franchise tag -- or sit out.

ALLEN PARK -- The deadline for the Detroit Lions and defensive end Cliff Avril to reach a long-term deal is rapidly approaching. 

The two sides have until Monday, July 16th to reach a deal or Avril will be forced to play on a one-year $10.6 million contract or sit out the season.

Avril deciding to sit out the season isn’t a realistic concern and – at most – the 26-year old will only sit out a portion of training camp.

The absence of a long-term deal should have little bearing on the current season, but could have significant impact on the team’s future. 

If no deal is reached, Avril will be scheduled for unrestricted free agency again next offseason.  The Lions will then be faced with an undesirable dilemma.

The foundation of this dilemma is the fact that the Lions have several key contributors scheduled to hit free agency next season.   Defensive lineman Corey Williams, Sammie Hill and Lawrence Jackson along with linebackers Justin Durant and DeAndre Levy as well as defensive backs Louis Delmas, Chris Houston and Jacob Lacey all have expiring contracts at the end of the 2012 season.

Locking Avril up to a long-term deal, with a much more friendly cap number than his 2012 salary, will be paramount to keeping the majority of the group intact.

So, the Lions could be faced with a decision to re-franchise Avril, which would require a 20 percent raise from his 2012 salary ($12.72 million) or let him hit the open market where he is sure to receive lucrative offers from other clubs in need of a pass rusher. Avril tallied a career-high and team best 11 sacks in 2011, and his numbers have only improved since joining the team as a third-round pick in 2008.

Of course, there is the possibility that Avril would sign a long-term deal before hitting free agency, but knowing the potential offers he may receive as well as understanding the amount of money that would accompany a second franchise tag does not make that likely. 

Avril and the Lions continue to work to the resolution they both desire – a long term deal – but one isn’t necessarily immanent. 

The franchise tag represents a gamble for both the player and organization in this situation.  However, barring a serious injury, Avril figures to walk away with a significant pay day next season if a long-term deal is not reached.

The Lions have no qualms with Avril receiving a significant pay day but they do not want him to walk away.

As Monday's deadline approaches, both sides will scramble to reach a deal.  If one is not reached, the Lions defense in 2013 might be missing a familiar face.

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