Lions DE Cliff Avril Holding Out

Cliff Avril Not Reporting to Lions Training Camp

7/18/12 in NFL   |   Andrew_Ericksen   |   230 respect

September 11, 2011; Tampa, FL, USA; Detroit Lions defensive end Cliff Avril (92) during the second half against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium. Detroit Lions defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 27-20. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-US PRESSWIREThis past year, Lions DE Cliff Avril pretty much did everything a player in a contract year would want to do.  He set career highs in solo tackles (29), sacks (11), and forced fumbles (6) while even recording his first professional interception and scoring his first two touchdowns.  So this offseason, Avril was hoping his career year would reward him with a nice and meaty multi-year contract.
Unfortunately, the Lions front office just hasn’t been able to meet Avril’s demands.  The most recent deal on the table was a three-year $30 million deal with $20 million guaranteed.  Avril turned it down before Monday’s deadline, leaving him with the franchise tender offer, which he is yet to sign.  It’s a one-year $10.6 million contract that will make Avril an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season.
Avril claims to have no hard feelings against the Lions, recognizing the difficulty in the transaction is more due to business reasons than personal discrepancies.  He told ESPN, “This is probably one of the only times in your career that you’ll ever get a chance to, you know, opt out and say I’m not going to camp or whatnot, but it also goes into with injuries and stuff like that.  You know, you don’t want to get hurt.”
I respect the fact that Avril doesn’t want to risk an injury before he doesn’t have the safety of a long-term deal to insure his safety in the future, but his reasoning here seems a bit more personal than business.  “Opting out” has that sort of Allen Iverson anti-practice ring to it, like this is the perfect opportunity to take a break from the workouts the rest of his team is going through.  Nowhere in his ESPN interview do I see the determination to continue building a Lions franchise that’s got as much potential as just about any team in the NFL right now if they can get everyone on the same page.  Holding out for the Lions 5 years ago is quite different in my eyes than holding out now.
The Lions have had their share of distractions this offseason, beginning with Aaron Berry’s tweet putdown of "broke and miserable" Detroiters after the Lions were eliminated in the playoffs and continuing through Nick Fairley’s two arrests, a marijuana charge for Mikel Leshoure, and Titus Young’s sucker punch of Louis Delmas in practice.  Avril is one of the most important defenders on the team and to not have him in training camp is a huge distraction.  It shows that money really rules everything on his mind right now and that the team’s potential to really make a good run this year is a somewhat moot point.
While Avril undoubtedly deserves a contract somewhere between Mario Williams’s 6-year $100 million contract and Calais Campbell’s 5-year $55 million deal, it’s just an irritating time for the Lions to have another problem to deal with.  It’s only a matter of time until Avril joins the team and the longer he’s gone, the greater the divide that forms between him and the rest of the team.  We saw how Chris Johnson struggled to get back into form upon returning to Tennessee last season and while Avril plays a far different position, the holdout is now something that every one of Avril’s Lions teammates are very aware of and the sooner it’s taken care of, the sooner the Lions can start building on their 2011 success.
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