2014 Combine

Mayhew says franchising Avril is not a good option; 'the only worse option is playing without him'

Posted Feb 24, 2012

Lions general manager Martin Mayhew sat down with local beat writers over breakfast Friday morning and spoke on a wide range of topics including free agency, the combine and the draft.

Inevitably, the first topic of conversation surrounded around the contract situations of defensive end Cliff Avril and receiver Calvin Johnson.

Avril will be an unrestricted free agent March 13 and the Lions have until March 5 to place the franchise tag on him or let him test free agency.

"We have not made a decision on Cliff," Mayhew said when asked if the team had plans to franchise him. "We are still going to work on getting a long-term deal done. Certainly it is not our desire to franchise Cliff. Franchising him is not a good option for us. The only worse option is playing without him."

Those comments certainly leave open the possibility of the team using the tag on Avril, which would pay him the average of the top five salaries at the position over the last five years.
Both Mayhew and head coach Jim Schwartz, who spoke with reporters at the combine Thursday, expressed how important Avril was to the team moving forward and their desire to keep him a Lions long term.

The Lions will certainly have more wiggle room to re-sign Avril and some of the team's other free agents Mayhew wants to bring back if an extension can be completed with Johnson to limit his nearly $22 million cap number next season.

Mayhew said talks with Johnson were progressing and he's had conversations with Bus Cook, Johnson's agent. Mayhew said those talks would continue over the next couple days at the combine and he also planned to sit down with Brian Mackler, Avril's agent.

"We can handle Calvin's number if we have to," Mayhew said. "Obviously, we have a lot more flexibility having more cap room, so we have a desire to get that done, but we have a way to handle his number."