There has been optimism from both sides regarding Cliff Avril ever since the Detroit Lions put the franchise tag on their star defensive end. Avril, his agent and the Lions have all made it clear that they want Avril inked to a new deal, and a long-term one if possible.
It hasn't happened yet, and time is running very short for the sides to work out something. If they don't, the process will repeat once again next offseason.
The deadline for signing players is Monday at 4 p.m. Eastern time. If no deal is made, the team can always wait until the winter to sign Avril, but by that point he might want to just test the waters of free agency, where his skills will assuredly be coveted by plenty of teams willing to give him the big paycheck he's looking for.
They could always tag him again -- a move that would give him a two million dollar raise from the $10 million he's receiving this season thanks to the franchise tag -- but the Lions might not want to because of the salary cap hit that would offer them. As the Detroit Free Press reports, there will be potentially better options to use the tag on next year for Detroit, which could leave Avril on the free agent market:
The Lions have a number of key players headed for unrestricted free agency next year, including Avril's potential replacement, backup defensive end Lawrence Jackson, and starters Corey Williams, Justin Durant, DeAndre Levy, Louis Delmas, Chris Houston and Gosder Cherilus. Delmas could be a more viable option for the franchise tag considering his importance to the secondary, the relatively cheap price of safeties (the safety tag was $6.2 million this year) and his injury history.
Avril will play for the Lions this fall, there's no question about that. Unfortunately, his future with the team could be in jeopardy if there is no ink on a contract by 4 p.m. on Monday. Avril did remain optimistic all the way until Monday, especially after seeing his fellow Purdue alum Drew Brees shake off the franchise tag and get a huge contract with the Saints:
"One Boilermaker signed, let's see if we can get another one," Avril said. "Hopefully. We'll see."
It's up to the Lions now, if they want to dole out the cash to one of the fastest rising stars defensively in the game, they'll need to do it quickly.