Avril sees both the good and the bad that comes with the franchise tag

Posted Mar 5, 2012

There are two distinct dimensions that exist in professional football: the family element throughout the season when players, coaches and front office are fighting together for a championship, and the business element, which is as cold, hard and calculated as any business can be.

It definitely paints a unique picture for fans, who want to see teams and players unite to win a Super Bowl each year.

Defensive end Cliff Avril is experiencing the business side of it right now, given the non-exclusive franchise tag by the Detroit Lions on Monday, just hours before the deadline to apply it.

"Honestly and truthfully - at the end of the day - I'm very, very fortunate to be franchised by an NFL team," said Avril. "I'm very blessed. That being said, being a business, you always want to do what's best for you and your family.

"Being franchised – I'm blessed and I'm definitely happy about being considered a player to give that tag to. I just hope we can continue to negotiate and try to get something done."

That is actually the hope of both sides. Both the Lions and Avril would like to see something long-term come to fruition before the 2012 season. The problem is coming together on what that deal will entail.

General manager Martin Mayhew said at the NFL Scouting Combine that the only option worse than applying the franchise tag to Avril was "playing without him" in 2012.

The fact that the Lions went ahead and applied that tag shows just how much they want him back.

Avril wants to be back, too.

"My expectations are to continue to negotiate, continue to try to move forward and hopefully get something done," he said. "Regardless, I'll be in Detroit, so that's a plus.

"But I don't want to be in the same situation next year. Hopefully we'll figure something out. We’ll see how it goes."

The two parties have until July 15 to agree to a long-term deal, the details of which will no doubt be affected by Detroit's tight salary cap situation.

One thing this franchise tag does is buy the team time to free up cap dollars with moves like extending the contract of wide receiver Calvin Johnson, who is entering the final year of his deal and is due a large sum for 2012.

However, those organizational realities can't be Avril's focus as he looks to solidify his own future in Detroit.

"I'm my business and I kind of keep to myself," he said. "I can only worry about my situation with the Lions and then whatever happens, happens. I do hear a few things with Calvin and our salary cap stuff.

"That's what the GMs are for - they figure that stuff out."

One thing that has been on Avril's radar is the way this situation is playing out in the media.

A fan favorite with his upbeat personality, Avril enjoys interacting with the fans in Detroit. This situation, however, has taken his public persona a bit more out of his control than he would like.

"People that follow me on Twitter would know who I really am but, at the same time, a lot of people in the media can make you look good or make you look horrible and it's up to them," he said. "The problem is people take that and really believe what they're hearing or what the situation may be but a lot of people don't understand the business aspect of it. They're on the outside looking in and they don’t really know.

"It's frustrating, but I guess it's all a part of the business. You have to take the good with the bad, I guess."

One thing that can get lost in all of this is the team perspective.

Just because Avril is going through this contract negotiation process doesn't mean he has taken his eyes off the true prize: a Super Bowl championship.

Aside from being glad he will be in Detroit - a team with which he has experienced the full spectrum of 0-16 to a playoff berth - he is looking forward to the 2012 season and pursuing that ultimate goal.

"Football team-wise, I'm ecstatic to be back because I see the potential," he said. "Hopefully we're bringing back most of the guys that helped us get to the playoffs. Definitely feel like we have a great young team and we've just got to keep building.

"We kind of laid the foundation down. Now we've just got to keep building and get to being one of the greater teams in the NFL so we can win the Super Bowl."