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A roundup of news on sporting events, people and places in Southeast Michigan by columnist Jim Evans.

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Lions' Avril plays (franchise) tag with management

On one hand, it’s tough to feel remotely sorry for a guy who will be making $10.6 million in the coming year.
Especially for a guy like me who is still tooling around in a ’97 subcompact with a muffler so full of holes it sounds like a Peterbilt coming home to roost when I’m tooling through the neighborhood after work at 2 a.m. or so.
The exhaust system needs to be replaced, but I can’t afford the $500 or so.
Still, I cannot help but feel a little bit sorry for the Lions’ Cliff Avril, a talented defensive end who will be making $10.6 million.

That’s the amount designated because he is the team’s franchise-tagged player.
Avril had wanted a long-term contract, but negotiations with the team fell apart Monday.
“I’m not mad,” Avril said to the Associated Press. “Business is business. You can’t take it personal. I wanted a deal last year, too, and they told me to go out and perform. It goes back to being a business. They can do whatever they want, obviously.”
Avril has definitely performed. The third round draft pick out of Purdue in 2008 has gotten more productive every season. He led the Lions with 11 sacks and six forced fumbles last year.
Contrast Avril’s performance with 2010 first-round pick Ndamukong Suh, whose production dropped off markedly during his sophomore year.
Suh was selected second overall in the 2010 NFL Draft and signed a five-year, $68 million contract with $40 million guaranteed.
Suh definitely earned his money in his rookie season when he led the team, all rookies, and all defensive tackles in the league, with 10 sacks. He also made 49 solo tackles and had 17 assists.
It was a phenomenal season for anyone, much less the new kid on the block.
But last year, Suh thudded back to earth. He managed a paltry four sacks. He made 23 fewer solo tackles (26) and only 10 assists. He also only played 14 games because he was suspended for two games after stomping on the arm of Green Bay’s Evan Dietrich-Smith.
Despite his subpar second season, Suh did not hand any money back to the Lions. And, despite Avril’s continued excellence, the Lions did not hand Avril a long-term deal.
One-year contracts in the NFL are treacherous. Due to the violence inherent in the game, every snap could potentially precipitate a guy’s last play. Knees get torn asunder all of the time. Shoulders get ripped and ankles get twisted and nearly every hut, hut is followed by Taps playing in the direction of someone’s career.
Contracts in the NFL are not etched in stone. The only thing guaranteed is the bonus money up front and there is not much of anything guaranteed excepting a whole lot of taped-up anxiety in a one-year deal with no bonus money attached.
Superlative defensive end Cliff Avril got the bum’s rush this year. But that is the system.


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