Seattle is a destination in today’s NFL.
That –- more than anything else –- is the reason that Cliff Avril boarded a plane Wednesday and headed for the Northwest with the intention of becoming a Seahawk.
As an unrestricted free agent with 29 sacks for Detroit over the past three years, he had other options. In fact, he almost certainly had more lucrative, longer-term options. But on the second day of free agency – after the market for pass rushers proved more lackluster than expected – he took a look at all his options and decided he would take a two-year deal for a rising contender that plays its home games in a cauldron of decibels that is a defensive player’s dream.
Don’t underestimate the significance of Avril’s decision. Everyone always talks about the difficulty of luring a free agent to Seattle, citing everything from the weather to the geography of the league’s most isolated outpost. Well, this guy went to college at Purdue, played the last five years in Detroit and he is choosing to come to the upper lefthand corner of the country, not because the Seahawks outpaid everyone else, but because of the total package that this team offered from contract to contention.
Success has a price in today’s NFL, the reality that other teams come looking to buy a part or three off of good teams. But success has dividends, too, and Seattle suddenly finds itself in position to reap a pretty large one.
Avril has had more than eight sacks each of the previous three years and was rated as the top unrestricted free agent by Peter King, the longtime NFL reporter for Sports Illustrated.
But the market for pass rushers didn’t turn out to be nearly as rich as many expected in free agency this year. Baltimore’s Paul Kruger signed with Cleveland, a five-year, $40 million deal that isn’t in the same zip code as the contract Julius Peppers signed with Chicago in 2010 or the $90 million deal Mario Williams got from the Buffalo Bills last year.
Veterans Dwight Freeney and Osi Umenyiora remain unsigned and haven’t been reported to take so much as a free-agent visit.
And given that backdrop, Avril decided that instead of maxing out what he could make right now at this very moment, he decided to go to a team he was excited to play for on a shorter-term deal that will allow him to re-enter the free-agent market two years from now at the age of 28 when the salary cap could be significantly higher.
Avril won’t be signing for peanuts. He’s going to average more than $6 million annually over the course of the contract. But he’s not expected to make more than defensive end Chris Clemons, who was signed to an extension last year. (That fact alone should answer any of the speculation regarding whether Clemons is part of this team’s future. He is.)
Also, let’s wait for coach Pete Carroll to explain exactly where Avril is going to fit on this defense before speculating on what this means for Clemons, Bruce Irvin and the rest of Seattle’s defense. Avril played linebacker in college, and the Seahawks have shown an ability to be both creative an flexible on defense.
For now, just know the Seahawks signed one of the top free-agent pass rushers to a much shorter contract than everyone expected, a fact that speaks to how attractive Seattle has become in today’s NFL. The Seahawks are now a desired destination.