With the NFL lockout finally over, the madness of NFL free agency is finally set to begin. Starting at 10 a.m. (ET) on Tuesday, teams from around the league will be able to start negotiating with free agents. No signings of free agents can actually be made until 6 p.m. (ET) on Friday, but plenty of agreements will be in place well before the end of the week.
The Detroit Lions have quite a few free agents, and first we will take a look at the ones that are considered restricted. It's important to note that under the new collective bargaining agreement, only players with less than four years of service that received qualifying offers are given restricted status. That is why only three Lions players are currently considered restricted free agents:
FB Jerome Felton - The Lions tendered him at the original-round level, so they would receive a fifth-round pick if Felton ends up signing with another team and they don't match the offer. Earlier in the offseason Felton made it clear he wants to play more or go elsewhere, but no matter what happens the Lions will have the right to match any offer that comes his way.
DE Cliff Avril - If another team were to sign Avril and the Lions declined to match the offer, Detroit would receive a first-round pick. That is the highest level a restricted free agent can be tendered at, and the Lions applied it to Avril since they want to bring him back. Avril has said he desires a long-term deal, and while it's unclear if something will be worked out, it's unlikely he will play anywhere other than Detroit next season.
DT Andre Fluellen - Like Felton, Fluellen was tendered an offer at the original-round level. That means the Lions would receive a third-round pick if Fluellen signed elsewhere and the offer wasn't matched by the Lions. It's unlikely any team would give up a third-rounder for him, so chances are he will return to the Lions.
In addition to the three restricted free agents above, Jake Nordin and Kevin Smith are also considered free agents for the Lions. Had Detroit tendered them a qualifying offer they would be restricted, but since no tenders came their way they are free to sign anywhere (including with Detroit).