Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press reports that the Detroit Lions are making the re-signing of Cliff Avril one of their top priorities this offseason:
Mayhew had an afternoon meeting Friday with representatives for his most high-profile free agent — defensive end Cliff Avril — and the Lions would like to keep their sack leader from the past two seasons if possible.
They continue to work toward freeing cap space to do so — Mayhew said he had a “productive” conversation Thursday with agent Tom Condon about a new deal for quarterback Matthew Stafford — and intends to restructure the contracts of several others.
The Lions are in a little bit of a tricky situation when it comes to free agency and their re-rebuilding process. They don’t have a ton of cap space, they have — as Birkett notes in the article — the most unrestricted free agents of any team in the league, and they’re coming off a majorly disappointing season. They’re in all-out blitz mode to restructure some of the contracts with players already on the team in order to reduce the 2013 cap number, but it doesn’t appear that they’ll have salary space to make a big splash on the open market.
Cliff Avril has been the biggest contributor on the defensive line in recent years when it comes to sacking the quarterback, but does he deliver enough of the total package to warrant a large free agent deal? I’m not convinced. Then again, if he’s allowed to walk and sign elsewhere, the Lions will be looking at another hole to fill.
That’s the tricky patch Martin Mayhew will have to walk this offseason: (1) retain the team’s current top free agents, (2) bring in outside free agents that will significantly improve the 2013 record, and (3) do all of it with limited salary cap resources.
Working with limited resources usually means finding under-valued commodities in the lower tiers of the free agent pools. If they do come to an agreement with Avril, they may have to spend the rest of the off-season digging through the bargain bin.
The team is still working to restructure the contracts of current players, notably Matthew Stafford, so more cap money could free up, but we’ll have to wait and see what happens on that front.