Cliff Avril has agreed to terms with Seattle, per source.
— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) March 13, 2013
Hands up who thought the Seahawks wouldn’t do all that much in free agency?
Days after making a blockbuster trade for Percy Harvin, Pete Carroll and John Schneider have gone out and landed one of the premier free agents on the market. Detroit’s Cliff Avril was being linked with moves to Cleveland and Indianapolis early in the process, two 3-4 teams hunting for pass rushers who can work in space. Avril’s best fit was likely in the 4-3 and he’s en route to Seattle to pen a two year deal (according to ESPN).
Here’s what you need to know — he’s hitting his prime age (turns 27 in April) with 29 sacks and nine forced fumbles in the last three seasons. He’s 6-3 and 260lbs, so he’s in that LEO range. He ran a 4.51 at the combine in 2008 with a 1.52 split. That kind of speed will appeal to this front office. He’s a former third round pick coming out of Purdue.
Yes, he’s benefited a lot from the presence of Ndamukong Suh. This will be a big test to see if he can replicate those numbers without a dominating interior rusher. Yet the Lions thought enough of him to franchise him last year and offer a deal worth $10m per season over three years. He rejected those terms. It’s not clear yet how much he will earn in Seattle.
It’ll be interesting to see how much he’s earning, given Harvin’s new contract. The Seahawks suddenly look like a team chasing a title, sensing a window. They could’ve probably made a cheaper and more modest addition with John Abraham, Dwight Freeney and Osi Umenyiora all on the market. They would’ve all been stop-gaps, however. This stands to be a longer term move.
My initial thought is what does this mean for Chris Clemons? He’s taking up $8.1m in 2013 and might not even be able to make it onto the field. Avril has some similarities to Clemons, he’s kind of a younger version. Can they afford to carry both players plus Bruce Irvin? Perhaps a more relevant question is if they’re all healthy during the season, can they be creative to get all three involved? Could they use more orthodox 4-3 looks, with Avril and Clemons rushing the edge? I suspect if they can afford to keep all three players, they will do. This is a team that appears to be leaving nothing to chance.
It’s probably a nod to the importance of Clemons in Carroll’s three years with the team. They’ve relied almost exclusively on him to create pressure in base defense. Losing him was a bigger blow than maybe we initially considered. Today’s news suggests they almost felt obliged to be aggressive here. They couldn’t afford to go into the season without a proven starting edge rusher.
Carroll consistently mentioned the pass rush needed improving. This hopefully takes care of one aspect — replacing Clemons’ production if he can’t go. It won’t solve the issue alone, however. Seattle still needs to either replace the departed Jason Jones (who ironically has signed for Detroit today) or add a pure-three technique who can start and collapse the pocket.
The signing of Avril also probably ends the concept of Bruce Irvin as the ‘ideal LEO’. Avril’s only signing for two years, but Irvin is already in his mid-20’s. He appears destined to remain a specialist. And that’s fine. He’s at is best with his ears pinned back rushing the passer, not over thinking the play call and selling out to defend the run.
In terms of how this impacts the draft, it could open the door for a weakside linebacker to be drafted early (Khaseem Greene? Arthur Brown?). Perhaps a defensive tackle like John Jenkins or Brandon Williams, or a smaller (!!!) guy like Kawann Short or Sly Williams? Maybe they go offense again? I wouldn’t completely rule out the tight end position, particularly if one of the top three (Ertz, Eifert, Escobar) falls to #56.
Once again Carroll and Schneider keep everyone guessing. In an off-season where nobody really expected Seattle to be big spenders, they’ve been ferocious. In an off-season of surprises, who knows what the next move will be?
In other big free agency news today, Wes Welker made a stunning $12m move to Denver. Tom Brady is writing a letter to ask for his Ugg’s back as we speak. In response, the Patriots quickly snatched up Danny Amendola as a replacement on a $31m deal. He’s requested Ugg’s bearing his initials. And yeah, the Patriots were willing to pay Amendola more than Welker. Jake Long appears to be choosing between the Rams and Dolphins. Louis Delmas is also meeting with St. Louis, while it was revealed they’re paying Jared Cook an astonishing $16m guaranteed. San Francisco added Glenn Dorsey.
Wednesday is usually mock draft day. We’ll do it tomorrow instead. Today is Cliff Avril Wednesday.