Schwartz says rewarding your own "sends a good message" to players

Posted Mar 29, 2012

Palm Beach, Fla. -- Lions president Tom Lewand and general manager Martin Mayhew made a strong statement to the locker room this offseason with the re-signings of receiver Calvin Johnson and linebacker Stephen Tulloch.

The organization's willingness to spend money on it's own players -- $132 million in the case of Johnson and $25.5 million for Tulloch – shows that the Lions will take care of their own, if players take care of their business on and off the field.

"When it's proven that you'll take care of your own, I think it sends a good message to your players," Lions head coach Jim Schwartz said Wednesday at the NFL league meetings.

"I think when your best players are your highest-paid players, it sends a good message. And when your best players and your highest-paid players are also your hardest-working players, it sends a good message. So I think that you look at our salary structure and we're that way pretty consistently, maybe more so than -- I don't want to put a number on it -- but a lot of other NFL teams."

The Lions are still working toward another long-term term with defensive end Cliff Avril, but those two sides haven't been able to meet in the middle in their negotiations. The team made it very clear, though, they wanted Avril around for the 2012 season when they placed the franchise tag on him worth $10.6 million for next season.

"I think the thing we feel most confident about with the guys that we've had is they're all still very young, they all fit our scheme and they're all really good guys," Schwartz said.

"They're guys who are hard-working guys and I think it gives you a lot more confidence that those guys will be around in the future and be that example moving forward."

The Lions could find themselves in a similar position next offseason with opportunities to reward young players like safety Louis Delmas, linebackers Justin Durant and DeAndre Levy and cornerback Chris Houston with new deals.