One of the biggest challenges the Lions have had to overcome in their rebuilding effort has been convincing free agent to come to Detroit. But it's just as important going forward that the franchise reward those players that have come in and done well, despite trying circumstances.
Cliff Avril falls under that umbrella. The defensive end out of Purdue is entering what will likely be the last year of his rookie deal in Detroit — assuming the NFL lockout ends with four-year vets being able to become unrestricted free agents.
"I would love to continue to build and to be a part of the change with the Detroit Lions," Avril told WDFN-AM 1130 Detroit. "I would definitely want something long-term, just for the security and to be able to be set.
"But it's up to the Lions, honestly. If they offer me something, and we go in there and think it's the right choice, we'll do it."
It'd be hard to imagine the Lions wanting to move forward without Avril, who's seemingly come into his own after being a 2008 third-round draft pick. With Kyle Vanden Bosch attracting tons of attention at one defensive end spot and the interior of Detroit's line turning into a formidable force, Avril could be in line for a career year, possibly even a double-digit sack season.
That means, of course, that the price to retain Avril may be higher — and depending on any salary-cap rules, difficult for Detroit to reach with the money already being spent on the defensive front.
It would also be well worth it for the Lions to pay up. Eventually, and perhaps that time is now, the Lions have to move past the rebuilding stage and into a position where they have a major foundation in place. We're talking about the type of foundation that lasts longer than a season, or even three or four.
Drafting players, developing them, then locking them in for the long haul is key to reaching that goal. Getting Avril re-signed before he hits free agency next summer would be a nice starting point.
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