The Detroit Lions are "actively pursuing" St. Louis Rams defensive end William Hayes in free agency, according to Anwar Richardson of MLive.com. Richardson reports that Hayes is being pursued by several NFL teams, and that he could be a high priority for the Lions once the new league year begins at 4 p.m. ET on Tuesday.
Detroit is likely bracing for the possibility of losing defensive end Cliff Avril, who is expected to test the open market when free agency opens. Avril has been seeking a big contract for the past couple seasons, but played on the franchise tag last year with Detroit. He's stated repeatedly that he wants to remain in Detroit, but it's clear he's going to take the highest offer on the table.
Hayes was a backup with the Rams last season, but defensive end is one area where St. Louis is actually strong, as the starters are Chris Long and Robert Quinn. Even in that limited time though, Hayes put up seven sacks and 35 tackles, which will certainly earn him some decent money this offseason.
It's unclear what Hayes' value is at this point, but the Lions unquestionably have a need along the defensive line, even if Avril were to return. A high-potential but also potentially low-cost player such as Hayes could be the perfect fit for them. Unfortunately, Detroit doesn't possess an abundance of cap space next season, so it's anybody's guess as to whether or not they're able to sign Hayes.