Lions turning focus to deal for Calvin Johnson

The Detroit Lions still want to sign Cliff Avril to a long-term contract extension after placing the franchise tag on him, but Tim Twentyman writes on the team’s Web site that the immediate focus turns to Calvin Johnson.

Per the report – and this is coming from the team – the Lions hope to strike a new deal with Johnson before March 13 in order to create needed salary-cap space to re-sign some of their own free agents like linebacker Stephen Tulloch, cornerback Eric Wright and left tackle Jeff Backus.

The Lions will continue to negotiate with Avril, but will likely shift most of their focus to extending Johnson's contract before March 13,” Twentyman writes.

Johnson is in the final year of his rookie contract and carries a cap hit of $22 million for 2012. If the Lions can get him signed for the long haul, they could significantly reduce that number and free up the room needed to take care of other business. Of the list of free agents Twentyman made, Tulloch would figure to be most important.

But the Lions would like to get back to the table with Avril on a contract, and plan to do that when the time is right.

“Being franchised – I'm blessed and I'm definitely happy about being considered a player to give that tag to,” Avril told the team’s Web site. “I just hope we can continue to negotiate and try to get something done.”

Stay tuned. It will be interesting to see if the team can get a deal with Johnson.

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Brad Biggs covers the Bears for the Chicago Tribune

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