Lions place franchise tag on Cliff Avril

Cliff Avril isn’t going anywhere.

But he still could go to the bank.

The Detroit Lions ensured the defensive end will return in 2012 when they placed the franchise tag on him today. It doesn’t preclude the sides from eventually working out the kind of long-term contract agreement that could get Avril paid big bucks.

But that deal wasn’t going to come before today’s deadline so the club went ahead and used the tag on Avril, leaving linebacker Stephen Tulloch a potential free agent the Lions want to re-sign.

The non-exclusive version of the franchise tag ensures Avril will earn $10.6 million this season. Avril had hoped to avoid the franchise tag and Lions general manager Martin Mayhew had said his goal was to avoid using the tag also.

It’s not really a good option for us to franchise Cliff,” Mayhew said last month, according to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. “That’s not appealing to me. It’s not appealing to Cliff. We don’t want to do that. But the worst option is to play without Cliff. You don’t want to play without him either.

“The franchise tag, one you’re taking a guy at a high cap number for one year, and two you’re probably going to re-visit the issue in a year again. It doesn’t solve anything so we want to get something done long-term with him and solve it.”

If and when the Lions work out a long-term deal with wide receiver Calvin Johnson that will lower his cap number, they should have more space to cut a deal for Avril.

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Brad Biggs covers the Bears for the Chicago Tribune

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