Avril still hopeful a deal can be reached before free agency begins

Posted Feb 16, 2012

Lions defensive end Cliff Avril is quickly becoming one of the league's hottest free agent targets this offseason.

Avril had 11 sacks and six forced fumbles this past season and is considered one of the best available defensive ends on the market along with the Texans' Mario Williams.

The Lions are hoping he never gets a chance to test those free agent waters, though. President Tom Lewand, general manager Martin Mayhew and head coach Jim Schwartz have all gone on record saying they'd like to re-sign Avril to a long-term deal by the beginning of free agency on March 13.

In a Sirius Satellite Radio interview Wednesday, Avril said he'd like to remain with the Lions, but he wasn't going to give them a "home team" discount.

"There is no such thing as a hometown discount in the NFL," Avril said. "Once you can't play anymore, they're going to let you go, so you definitely have to strike gold when you can. But that being said, I'd love to be with the Lions and if them and another team present the same (offer), I would stay with the Lions."

Avril told media members after the season that he was looking to cash in on his first chance at free agency, and mentioned the deals the Chiefs' Tamba Hali (five years, $60 million) and the Panthers' Charles Johnson (six years, $72 million) signed last year when asked what he might command.

Being tight against the salary cap next season, the Lions aren't likely in a position to offer that kind of deal, and I'm not convinced those deals were the best for the Chiefs or Panthers, either.

"It's negotiations, obviously, they are going to come in low," Avril said when asked how he'd characterize the negotiations thus far.

"They are never going to actually present what you think you're worth, initially. I understand it's a business and I'm not taking anything personal. We're definitely going to go with what we think I'm worth. There's still a lot to get through, but I think we'll try to make something happen.

"I just want to be paid as one of the guys that's helping this team grow. I want to be there. I want to grow with our young D-line. I'd love to be there, but I know it's a business and you only hit free agency once or twice in your career, so, you definitely have to take advantage of it."

Avril said he doesn't have any trips planned when free agency begins because he's hoping the Lions "do the right thing" and make those trips unnecessary.

Speaking to season ticketholders in a fan forum earlier this week, Lewand said he's hopeful a deal could get done with Avril and all of the other Lions' free agents.

We'll see if there's common ground to be had with Avril before free agency begins in the middle of March.