Cliff Avril, Lions Will Continue Contract Talks; Franchise Tag Likely

Detroit Lions defensive end Cliff Avril was a big part of the dominant defense that powered the team to the playoffs in 2011. Avril is an impending free agent, so the team will have to make a decision on whether to affix the franchise tag to him if they are unable to work out a contract extension by the March 5 franchise tag deadline.

Avril previously said there is no such thing as a "hometown discount" in contract talks and seemed eager to test out the open market. Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press reports that the two sides are expected to meet on Saturday and that no decision has been made regarding the franchise tag option.

[Lions GM, Martin] Mayhew said he hasn't taken offense to comments by Avril that he could hold out if the franchise tag is applied.

The tag guarantees Avril a one-year deal at premium salary of the top five defensive ends in the league, but restricts his movement on the open market.

"Whatever happens with Cliff, it's a business decision," Mayhew said. "If we were to franchise him and he were to hold out than that's a business decision that Cliff made, he thinks that's the best thing for him. I respect his ability to handle his business."

Mayhew said Avril's future and the Lions' ability to get deals done with some of their other free agents - starters Stephen Tulloch, Eric Wright and Jeff Backus will be unrestricted free agents without new deals by March 13 - does not hinge on working out a new deal with receiver Calvin Johnson.

The idea for the Lions is to get both Avril and Johnson back in the most cost-effective way for 2012. It remains to be seen whether that will include franchising Avril.

For more on the Lions offseason, head over to the SB Nation blog Pride Of Detroit.

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