LIONS INSIDER

10 Questions with Twentyman: What are the chances the Lions keep Cliff Avril?

Posted Feb 14, 2013

Detroitlions.com lead writer Tim Twentyman expands on fan questions from his regular live chat

Every week during the season I do a live chat on Detroitlions.com sponsored by Huntington Bank. I'll continue to chat from time-to-time this offseason as important dates come up (Senior Bowl, Super Bowl, free agency, draft, etc. ...).

I can never get to all the questions in the chat because of the time constraints and the fact that I'm not the world's fastest typist. The nature of online chats don't lend themselves to expansive answers, either.

So, after each chat, I'll pick 10 good questions that I either didn't get to or would like to expand upon. I might also throw in a few here and there from my Twitter account, @ttwentyman.

Q. Percentage we keep Cliff Avril? From Ray S.

A. I think Avril is a terrific talent and will consistently be a 10-sack performer in this league. I don't think he'll ever be a 15-sack player, though. Players who make $10-plus million – which is what Avril will be seeking in free agency – have to be impact players.

They have to change the way a defense or offense plays you. There's a game plan built around those guys. Calvin Johnson is that kind of player. Ndamukong Suh is that kind of player. Matthew Stafford does that.

I just don't see offensive coordinators sitting in the meeting room on Tuesday and saying, 'Wow, how are we going to stop Cliff Avril?' That's not an indictment on Avril in any way - the market dictates his value.

But, if you're the Lions, would you rather have Avril at $10-plus million or three good players that fit holes at other places for the same price? Then the Lions could draft a young pass rusher at the top of the draft who could be even better.

To me, that's a no brainer. To answer your question, it appears to be less than 50/50.

Q. Does the Rams claim of Titus Young mean that the Lions could have gotten something for him if they hung on a little longer? From Eli

A. No. The Rams were the only team that put in a claim and Mayhew seemed pretty confident afterward that they wouldn't have given anything up to get him. By claiming him off waivers, the Rams have literally no risk. His salary is cheap and the Lions are picking up the bill for the bonuses. If he's a problem, the Rams will simply cut him.

I'm pretty confident in thinking the Lions wouldn't have gotten anything from him.

Plus, now you've disassociated yourself from him as an organization if he does anything embarrassing over the next however many months before training camp.

Q. Do you think Louis Delmas and Chris Houston want to stay? From Joe

A. I haven't heard that they don't want to be in Detroit.

Both guys are great in the locker room and well respected by teammates. Delmas, in particular, has taken on a leadership role and has been called the "heart and soul" of the Lions defense by coaches.

But we also need to be clear that the NFL is a business. The Lions reminded everyone of that last week when they released Kyle Vanden Bosch. Both players are either in their prime or reaching their prime and are unrestricted free agents.

There's no such thing as a home-team discount in the NFL. Careers are too short and contracts aren't guaranteed.

The Lions should want both players back, but it will be hard for either player to turn down a better offer from another team.

That's just life in the NFL.

Hopefully they're still with the Lions next year.

Q. Please name which three rookies from last year that you have the highest expectations for going into next season. From Rick

A. I have to start with the top three picks - Riley Reiff, Ryan Broyles and Bill Bentley - who I think will all be starters next year.

Reiff will start somewhere along the offensive line, but that is yet to be determined. It appears at this point that Jeff Backus wants to return in 2013 (he's been in the building working out quite a bit this offseason) and if that's the case, I think he's the favorite going into camp at left tackle.

If Backus comes back, it makes Reiff available at right tackle with the pending free agency of Gosder Cherilus. Cherilus played well in 2012, but the Lions have some young tackles waiting in the wings and eventually these guys have to play.

Right guard is also a possibility for Reiff.

We'll have to see how Broyles' ACL recovery goes, but he faced a similar rehab last offseason on the other knee and was considered 100 percent by Week 5 by Lions coaches. He's been through the rehab before and seems ahead of schedule now that he's already running.

Broyles is the best slot receiver currently on the Lions roster and they missed him last year when he got hurt.

Bentley had the shortest playing stint of the three before a shoulder injury ended his season. That should make fans a little nervous. Depending on Chris Houston's return, and any possible addition via free agency or the draft at cornerback, the Lions will likely expect Bentley to start at one of the corner spots.

That doesn't necessarily make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside at this point. Bentley has the potential to be pretty good, but I haven't seen enough to make that call definitively.

Watch out for cornerback Chris Greenwood, who'll I'll talk about in a little bit.

Q. Will Dominic Raiola be playing center for the Lions in 2013? From George

A. I would probably say no at this point based on conversations I've had with sources and Martin Mayhew's comments following the season that the Lions weren't good enough up the middle of their offensive line.

That being said, the Lions probably won't cut him just to free up space, without a backup plan in place.

How much cap space the team needs will be dictated by what free agents make sense for them to sign or what plans they have in place for the draft.

"The optimal (cap) range is dependent on the opportunities that exist, not just on the cap space available," Lions president Tom Lewand told detroitlions.com.

"You've got to look at what possible methods of player acquisition are in front of you, what players are available to be acquired, how they fit your system, all of the different things that are involved in the complexity of the system and marry that up to what your available cap room is."

Raiola's future seems very much tied into some of those plans. It should be noted that his release would save the Lions $4 million in cap space for 2013.

Q. Have the Lions started talking extension with Stafford? And what number do you think we're looking at with him? From Shawn

A. Lions general manager Martin Mayhew told reporters last week those negotiations are in their infancy, but that he's hopeful something can get done.

Quite frankly, the Lions need to get a deal done, but Stafford has all the leverage here. His cap number for 2013 is over $20 million. Stafford just turned 25 years old; he's already had a 5,000-yard season and is one of the best young quarterbacks in the league.

The top quarterbacks are going for around $20 million per season. If the Lions can get him for $15 or under, then they've done well for themselves.

How much does Stafford want to win and stay with Calvin Johnson? How much does he want talent around him if he's identified that he wants to be a Lion for life?

Q. Who is a wildcard player for the Lions in 2013? From Mike C.

A. Cornerback Chris Greenwood is that guy for me.

It seems good teams always have that one player that takes a big step forward or is better than anticipated.

To me, Greenwood has that potential. The Lions love his athleticism and potential, but he's such a wildcard after missing all of 2012 with an abdominal injury.

Just think, what if he's as good as the Lions think early on in training camp? What if that 6-foot-1, 190-pound frame fits exactly what the Lions want at cornerback and he's ahead of the curve? What if we're talking about him as a starter?

All that is way premature for a guy who last played a game at Albion College, but what if? Surprise teams get those kinds of contributions.

Q. You say the roster going to be different, that's well known. Will it be different in a good way with improvements or just different because of all the people we have to let go? From Ryan

A. When you're 4-12 there is obviously a need for change. It would be naive to think that all the changes are going to be upgrades, though. The Lions won't be able to sign all 23 of their free agents – not that they'd want to – and they won't be able to fill the open spots with veteran free agents.

The Lions will ask a lot of young players to step up and play bigger roles next season, including two or three rookies from this year's class. That's always a crapshoot when you're talking about young players.

Q. You've stated that the Lions should take a DE with the No. 5 pick, so which one should they take? From Jimmy J.

A. It's way too premature for that seeing how I haven't seen these guys at the combine yet, talked to them at the combine or on their team visit or talked to scouts regarding their pro day.

I know mock drafts are really popular and it's fun to speculate, but you really have to let the process play out before you start talking about liking this player better than that one or how this player fits and that one doesn't.

I could sit here and tell you I love Ezekiel Ansah's athleticism and be enamored with him when he runs well at the combine, but there's still more to the process.

How does he interview? What will the character checks turn up? How do the Lions scouts and coaches think he fits the system? Do they feel he can play right away or is he a developmental player?

All valid questions.

Game film is still the most important piece of the evaluation process but the others matter, too. I like what I've seen from Ansah, Bjoern Werner, Demontre Moore and Barkevious Mingo so far, but I won't pick a favorite until all the information is in.

Q. What are your thoughts on trading back and picking up an extra second round pick and get Alabama guard Chance Warmack with first pick and maybe West Virginia receiver/returner Tavon Austin in the second as a "Jahvid Best" role? From Cody

A. That's not a bad scenario for the Lions. The Lions need an upgrade to the interior of their offensive line, but the fifth-overall pick is probably a little high to pick a guard.

The Lions are also on a lookout for a speed back and if that player can also return punts and kicks - like Austin can - it's an added bonus. I've heard really good things about Austin.

I just wonder if taking a skill player in the second round is the right move for a Lions team that will likely have a big need for a pass rusher. Let's not forget that pass rushers are some of the most expensive free agents. It isn't as simple as just going out and getting one.

I think Warmack can be a 10-year type of player, and if the Lions can pick up another second round pick by moving back and getting a pass rusher and then an Austin-type player, I'd feel much better about it.