The Lions plan to be players in free agency — but that doesn’t mean they’ll be payers. (See what I did there? Yeah, I know it was lame. Does admitting it make it any better? Probably not.)
Team president Tom Lewand recently told the team’s official website (i.e., a press release that reads like an article) that the Lions will be careful when it comes to spending money.
“Free agency is an area where you have to understand the opportunities that are there and understand the risks that are there,” Lewand said. “When we, in 2010, added guys like Nate Burleson and Kyle Vanden Bosch, those were tremendous value for us.”
The Lions specifically targeted both players because offensive coordinator Scott Linehan had a history with Burleson, and coach Jim Schwartz had a history with Vanden Bosch. Unlike many first-day signings (and due in part to their age), the players didn’t demand market value.
Tim Twentyman of the team’s official website sums up the philosophy that plenty of teams follow, and that the Lions presumably intend to respect: “Scoring in free agency isn’t always as easy as identifying the best player available at a position of need and going after him. Most of the time, teams end up overpaying for those services.”
As applied to the Lions, this means they won’t succumb to the temptation to spend on a guy who will generate excitement and create hope (false or otherwise) among the fan base. Twentyman observes that “[s]ometimes a player simply isn’t the same after a big contract is in hand,” and he points to defensive end Mario Williams as a guy who has not made “a significant difference for the Bills.”
Coincidentally (or not), Avril recently said he’d “love” to get a contract like the one Williams signed last year. The article/press release/whatever on the team’s official website makes it clear that the Lions won’t get caught up in the rush to overpay Avril or anyone else.
The reality is that the Lions don’t have the cap space to overpay. And with top-of-the-market value already given to receiver Calvin Johnson and in due time to quarterback Matthew Stafford based on the leverage created by the latter years of their pre-wage scale top-two contracts, the Lions can’t afford to give a large piece of cap pie to folks who never have played for the team.
And for those like Avril who already do.