Cliff Avril

NFC Notes: Hawks, Falcons, Pack, Saints

The Seahawks had been in danger of losing a second-round pick for failing to disclose cornerback Richard Sherman‘s “significant” MCL injury during the season, but the NFL decided Monday to let them off with a warning, tweets Mike Garafolo of NFL.com. The league concluded that the Seahawks merely misinterpreted its rules, per Garafolo. The news that Seattle is escaping punishment isn’t particularly surprising, as one of Garafolo’s NFL.com colleagues, Ian Rapoport, reported earlier this month that Seattle wasn’t going to face serious discipline for its violation.

More from Seattle and a few other NFL cities:

  • The Falcons have hired Bush Hamdan as their quarterbacks coach, reports Sporting News’ Alex Marvez (Twitter link). The younger brother of former NFL quarterback Gibran Hamdan, Bush Hamdan spent the previous two seasons as the University of Washington’s wide receivers coach and pass game coordinator. He’s taking over in Atlanta for Matt LaFleur, now the Rams’ offensive coordinator. In doing so, Hamdan will reunite with head coach Dan Quinn, notes Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times (via Twitter), as the two worked together at the University of Florida in 2012.
  • The Packers have a decision to make on pending free agent defensive back Micah Hyde, who could seek $4MM-plus per year on his next contract, writes Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com. Hyde, who’s coming off an 11-start, three-interception season, has been with the Packers since they selected him in the fifth round of the 2013 draft. If Hyde moves on, Green Bay could turn to Kentrell Brice and Marwin Evans, Demovsky suggests. Elsewhere in the secondary, the team will either extend safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix or exercise his fifth-year option for 2018, as Demovsky opines that the Pro Bowler could be general manager Ted Thompson‘s best first-round pick since he chose Aaron Rodgers in 2005. Clinton-Dix made a strong case for that honor as a third-year pro in 2016, when he played every defensive snap for the Packers and picked off five passes.
  • Newly signed Seahawks kicker Blair Walsh‘s single-year contract is worth $1.1MM and includes no guaranteed money, per Sheil Kapadia of ESPN.com. Walsh stands to earn an $800K salary and could make another $300K in bonuses. The Seahawks are likely to bring in another kicker to compete against Walsh for the job this summer. Odds are that won’t be soon-to-be free agent Steven Hauschka, observes Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times, considering the five-year Seahawk will likely be out of their price range.
  • Continuing a Seahawks-heavy set of notes, defensive end Cliff Avril tweeted that he underwent successful surgery Tuesday. Avril didn’t specify which type of surgery he underwent, though Condotta points out that the physician who performed the procedure – Dr. William C. Meyers – specializes in core and sports hernia operations. Regardless, Avril should be fine for 2017 and will attempt to build on his first Pro Bowl season – an 11.5-sack, five-forced fumble campaign.
  • Fullback John Kuhn‘s one-year pact with the Saints is a minimum salary benefit deal worth $1.08MM, tweets Nick Underhill of The Advocate. Kuhn will earn a $1MM salary and count $695K against New Orleans’ cap in 2017.

NFC Notes: Seahawks, Thurmond, Giants

Some assorted notes from around the NFC…

  • The 2016 base salaries for several Seahawks players will be guaranteed today, tweets Joel Corry of CBSSports.com. The list includes Richard Sherman ($12.569MM), Russell Wilson ($12.342MM), Cliff Avril ($6MM) and K.J. Wright ($5.25MM). $6MM of Earl Thomas‘ $8MM 2016 salary is also guaranteed today (via Corry).
  • The Eagles and free agent safety Walter Thurmond haven’t started discussions on an extension, tweets Geoff Mosher. The two sides are expected to start talking at the NFL Combine.
  • Jordan Raanan of NJ.com puts the Giants chance of retaining cornerback Prince Amukamara at “40 percent.” With the 26-year-old expected to fetch a contract of at least $10MM annually, Raanan isn’t convinced that the team is willing to spend at the position.
  • Raanan also believes the Giants should pursue Dolphins defensive end Olivier Vernon. The 25-year-old is younger than Mario Williams (who is expected to be released) and he’s more dependable than Jason Pierre-Paul.

NFC Rumors: Forte, Jeffery, Hardy, Avril

Matt Forte‘s free agency bid’s played a role in the Bears running back’s recovery timetable, per Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk.

The soon-to-be 30-year-old dual-threat back suffered a sprained MCL two weeks ago and, similar to a pitcher in the last days of his contract with a non-playoff-bound team, Forte won’t rush back.

That’s [a factor], if not the most important factor — the future,” Forte told reporters, via Dan Wiederer of the Chicago Tribune. “Because if you go out there for one game and then ruin the rest of your season and maybe your career, then that’s a big factor. There’s a lot of football left to be played. So you don’t want to chance it for one game.”

Forte’s in the fourth and final year of a $30.4MM pact, his second with the Bears, and as of now looks to be the top option in the 2016 running back class, along with Chris Ivory.

Florio does speculate Forte would be more inclined to return to the field sooner if the Bears decided to offer him a third contract.

Here’s some more news coming out of the NFC locales.

  • If the Bears were observing a healthy contract year from Alshon Jeffery, the decision to re-sign the fourth-year wideout to a lucrative, long-term extension wouldn’t be difficult, Rich Campbell of the Chicago Tribune writes. Jeffery’s been on and off the injury report this season, missing four games, and this week’s served as a microcosm, with the ex-second-rounder dominating Monday night only to miss practice time this week with his third leg-muscle injury this season. Campbell offers that the Bears could place some escalators in Jeffery’s possible extension revolving around playing time. “You have to bet on the player that he’s going to get healthy,” former GM Mark Domenik said. “When you start to bet that your guy is going to be hurt, if you think that, then you probably shouldn’t sign him. Move on and do it with a clear conscience.”
  • The release of the domestic violence photos in association with the Greg Hardy case a day after the Cowboys defensive end saw this incident expunged from his record illustrates how the NFL likely wanted that information out there, per Ben Volin of the Boston Globe. The Mecklenburg (N.C.) County District Attorney’s office and the Charlotte Police Department informed the Globe they did not release the photos, and the NFL, due to its independent investigation, was the only other entity with access to the photos and transcript, Volin writes.
  • Rumors connected Rod Marinelli to a potential return to Tampa Bay prior to signing a three-year extension with the Cowboys in January, according to Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News. Marinelli has connections to both the Bucs, who employed him as their defensive line coach from 1996-2005, and Lovie Smith, whom Marinelli worked for from 2009-12 with the Bears.
  • Prior to his father’s death, Cliff Avril told him he would only play in the NFL for 10 years due to health reasons, Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times notes. The 29-year-old Seahawks defensive end’s in his eighth season. “And I plan on it,” he says. “Unless something crazy happens and they’re offering me some ridiculous amount of money.” Avril said. “Then he’d probably tell me to keep playing.”

2015 Salaries Become Guaranteed For Sherman, Thomas, Others

Five members of the NFC champion Seahawks will have their 2015 base salaries become fully guaranteed today, as former agent Joel Corry explains on CBSSports.com. This list includes cornerback Richard Sherman, safety Earl Thomas, linebacker K.J. Wright and defensive ends Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril.

Sherman’s guaranteed salary in 2015 is $10MM, the highest of the group. Combined with his $2.2MM signing bonus, the cornerback’s cap hit will be worth an estimated $12.2MM next season. This total is more than three times the value of Sherman’s cap hit last season. Meanwhile, one of Sherman’s fellow defensive backs will also be earning a chunk of change today. Thomas’ $5.5MM salary becomes guaranteed, meaning the All-Pro safety will count for $7.4MM against the ‘Hawks cap (counting the player’s $1.9MM prorated signing bonus).

Wright’s salary and cap hit will take a significant jump in 2015. The linebacker’s $3.75MM is now full guaranteed, and coupled with the player’s $1MM signing bonus, Wright counts for $4.75 against the cap. Michael Bennett’s cap hit will be worth twice as much as its 2014 value, as the defensive end’s $6MM salary is now guaranteed. Combined with the player’s $2MM signing bonus, Bennett will count for $8MM against the cap. Finally, fellow defensive end Avril had his $7.5MM salary guaranteed. Add that total to the veteran’s $500K signing bonus, and the player’s cap hit is worth $8MM (a drop from last season’s value).

Two other members of the organization had their contracts partially guaranteed today. Safety Kam Chancellor had $4.45MM of his $4.55MM salary guaranteed, meaning his cap hit is worth $5.5MM. $2.3MM of wideout Doug Baldwin‘s $2.8MM salary becomes guaranteed today, meaning the player now counts for an estimated $3.9MM against the cap.

Seahawks Sign Cliff Avril To Extension

SUNDAY: $2.5MM of Avril’s $16MM signing bonus comes in the form of a signing bonus, reports Joel Corry of CBS Sports, who also passes along the cap figure breakdown of Avril’s new deal. The defensive end’s cap number will be $8MM in 2015, $6.5MM in ’16, $5.5MM in ’17, and $8MM in ’18. Additionally, Avril’s base salary injury guarantees become fully guaranteed five days after the waiver period in each year (Twitter links: 1, 2, 3).

FRIDAY: A day after locking up one of their key defensive players with a new four-year deal, the Seahawks have signed another to a contract extension, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, who reports (via Twitter) that the team has reached a long-term agreement with defensive end Cliff Avril. Avril’s new four-year contract will be worth $28.5MM, with $16MM guaranteed, a source tells Rapoport.Cliff Avril

Avril, 28, has recorded just 4.5 sacks this season, which would be a career low if he doesn’t add to it in Seattle’s final two regular season games. As such, the $7MM+ annual commitment from the club may initially look a little high. However, Avril averaged over nine sacks per season in his previous four years, with Seattle and Detroit, and has still wreaked havoc in opposing backfields this year even if his sack totals aren’t there.

According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Avril has been the league’s 13th-best 4-3 defensive end this year, out of 58 qualified players. PFF gives Avril credit for 38 quarterback hurries, and another nine quarterback hits, so he’s creating plenty of pressure as a pass rusher. Seattle has rewarded the former third-round pick for his play by giving him a slight raise, and a little more security — Avril’s previous contract was for two years and $13MM.

Avril’s new four-year deal looks awfully similar to a couple others recently signed by Seahawks defenders. Fellow pass rusher Michael Bennett inked a four-year, $28.5MM pact before reaching the open market back in March, and he has been even better than Avril this year — Bennett’s sack total (six) is also modest, but he ranks as the NFL’s third-best 4-3 defensive end, according to PFF’s grades.

Linebacker K.J. Wright also received a new four-year extension from Seattle, and his deal, announced yesterday, is worth a little less than the ones signed by the defensive ends. Full details of Wright’s contract haven’t been reported yet, but the overall value is believed to be $27MM.

Moving Percy Harvin in a trade with the Jets earlier in the season freed up some future cap space and flexibility for the Seahawks, and the team has taken full advantage, locking up two of its best defensive players to multiyear deals. With Wright, Bennett, and Avril now under contract beyond 2014, Seattle has ensured that nearly all its impact defensive players will be in the fold for several years — Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman also signed extensions this year, while Kam Chancellor agreed to his in 2013.

With those defenders now under team control for several years, the Seahawks will likely shift their focus to the offensive side of the ball, where Russell Wilson will be entering the final year of his rookie contract in 2015. In addition to addressing Wilson’s deal, the team will have to figure out what’ll happen with running back Marshawn Lynch, who is also entering the final year of his contract.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extension Candidate: Cliff Avril

Like most successful NFL teams, the Seahawks aren’t a club built through notable free agent acquisitions. Seattle stars Russell Wilson, Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, and K.J. Wright were acquired through the draft, while Marshawn Lynch and Percy Harvin were obtained via trade. However, the Hawks are not averse to spending wisely in free agency, mostly in the form of modest, short-term deals. During the 2013 offeason, for example, Seattle added several pieces to its defensive line, two of whom (Michael Bennett and Tony McDaniel) signed one-year contracts. In the months since, both Bennett (four years, $28.5MM) and McDaniel (two years, ~$6.5MM) have been retained."<strong

The Seahawks signed a third defensive lineman during that same offseason, one who (at the time) probably had the most name recognition. Cliff Avril was added on a two-year deal worth $13MM; the second year of the pact (2014) became fully guaranteed on February 7. Per Over the Cap, Avril is also eligible to earn as much as $2.1MM in sack-based incentives. Given its significant investment in Bennett, it’s fair to wonder if Seattle is interested in extending Avril in order to preserve its outstanding defensive line.

Avril, 28, entered the league as a second-round pick of the Lions in 2008. He became a full-time starter in Detroit the following season, and went on to rack up 39.5 sacks and 124 tackles across 73 games in the Motor City. After his rookie contract expired, Avril rejected a three-year, $30MM contract offer from the Lions, and played the 2012 season under the franchise tag, which was worth roughly $10.6MM.

While Pro Football Focus’ grades can’t encapsulate every detail of a players’ performance, their advanced metrics do paint a complex picture of Avril. Except for the 2010 season, PFF (subscription required) assigned Avril a negative grade from 2008-2012. During that span, the Purdue product exhibited a far greater capacity for pass-rushing than run defending. To illustrate this, I totaled Avril’s pass-rush and run-defense grades for that four-year period. Against the run, PFF rated Avril as a -45.5 player from ’08-’12 — he was much better at getting to the quarterback, as he garnered a +55.3 grade during the same span. This data portrays Avril as a one-dimensional lineman, one who could help in obvious passing situations but would struggle on early downs.

Even after joining a different defensive scheme in Seattle, Avril continued to struggle against the run. This isn’t to insinuate that Avril is a sub-par player, as he accrued a +8.2 grade from PFF in 2013, rating as the 12th-best 4-3 defensive end among 52 qualifiers. But, like the rest of his career, most of his value was tied up in pass-rushing. Through four games this season, however, Avril has shown to be more of a complete DL — PFF says he’s the third-best at his position, and is almost as equally proficient against the run as the pass.

Despite Avril’s successes, Seattle might be reticent to retain the veteran. General manager John Schneider and head coach Pete Carroll aren’t afraid to rid themselves of veterans, especially along the defensive line, as evidenced by their release of both Red Bryant and Chris Clemons earlier this year. Avril will be 29 when the 2015 season gets underway, so the Hawks could be wary of committing to a multi-year deal. Additionally, as Jason Fitzgerald of OTC noted when examining the construction of Super Bowl teams, Seattle isn’t a typically-built squad, meaning that spending big on a 4-3 end (which many clubs do) might not be in the cards, especially given that it already has Bennett under contract.

Still, the Seahawks will have more than $29MM available in cap space heading into 2015, and as Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com reported twice in the past three months, the team is very interested in working out a new deal with Avril. His current $7.5MM average annual value would place him at 14th among defensive ends, in between Carlos Dunlap and Bennett. At first glance, it seems as though Avril should surpass the 12th-highest DE contract: the four-year, $32MM ($15.5MM in guarantees) pact Jared Allen signed with the Bears. However, Bennett, No. 13 among 4-3 ends, was a better player than Avril last year — the two are playing at an equal level in 2014, but Bennett is the more versatile player who can move around in the Hawks’ front four.

Ultimately, it’s difficult to imagine Seattle giving Avril more money than Bennett received. This creates a conundrum, as Bennett’s AAV on his new deal is almost $400K less than Avril’s two-year pact. Bennett did take less money to stay with the Seahawks, but it’s worth wondering whether Avril would consider less money on a per-year basis in order to secure a large guarantee. I wouldn’t be surprised if Seattle offered Avil the exact same contract as Bennett: four years, $28.5MM, with $16MM guaranteed. It would be a nice payday for Avril, a fair deal for the Seahawks, and a way for the team to show how similarly it values the two key pieces on its defensive line.

West Notes: Miller, Seahawks, Broncos, Rams

Broncos star Von Miller became the latest player to weigh in on J.J. Watt‘s megadeal and he thinks the Texans got away light. “He’s underpaid in my opinion. What he does for the Texans, no one else does that for their organization,” Miller said, according to Lindsay H. Jones of USA Today Sports. “None of the big-time quarterbacks that are getting the big-time deals do. J.J. Watt deserves a similar deal. He does everything on the field, everything off the field. It was well deserved. I think he should have gotten more.” Of course, given Miller’s off-the-field troubles, it’s hard to say what Watt’s deal means for the Denver standout. More out of the AFC and NFC West..

  • On the eve of their season opener, the Seahawks haven’t given up hope of working out contract extensions with Cliff Avril and/or K.J. Wright, according to Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com (on Twitter). La Canfora writes that they’re “exploring options” with both, so agreements aren’t necessarily imminent.
  • The Broncos tried out long snappers Danny Aiken and Luke Ingram before picking up Kevin McDermott, according to Howard Balzer of USA Today (on Twitter).
  • Mike Triplett of ESPN.com (on Twitter) wonders if the Rams would have claimed Ryan Griffin if he were available instead of Case Keenum. St. Louis signed Keenum on Monday. Griffin, meanwhile, is back with the Saints on a practice squad deal.
  • Allen Bradford, Drew Nowak and David Arkin visited with the Seahawks, tweets Aaron Wilson of The Baltimore Sun.

NFC West Links: Extensions, Seahawks, Givens

In a piece examining how the Seahawks can keep their championship window open, Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com writes that even though Seattle has already extended the deals of Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, and Doug Baldwin, the team could look to hand out even more new contracts in the coming months. Fourth-year linebacker K.J. Wright, whom Pro Football Focus (subscription required) graded as the 13th-best 4-3 OLB in the NFL last season, might be next in line for an extension, per La Canfora. The Seahawks might also look to tack on years to defensive end Cliff Avril‘s original two-year, $13MM deal, which expires after this season. Left tackle Russell Okung is also entering the final year of his contract, but might have to wait for new money, as La Canfora believes his injury history will prompt Seattle to evaluate his health after 2014. More from the NFC West:

  • The Seahawks have a history of keeping just two quarterbacks on their 53-man roster, but Terrelle Pryor‘s performance through two preseason games has Gregg Bell of the News-Tribune wondering if the team will keep the 25-year-old Ohio State product around.
  • Per Nick Wagoner of ESPN.com, Rams receiver Chris Givens has been surpassed on the depth chart by Kenny Britt, Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey, and Brian Quick. It’s fair to wonder if Givens, entering his third season, will survive final cuts.
  • It’s common practice for teams to send scouts to preseason games around the league, hoping to get looks at players who could be available in the coming weeks as cutdown dates approach. Eight NFL teams, plus two CFL squads, had officials on hand to scout the Broncos-49ers exhibition game, but Seahawks general manager John Schneider was the only top executive on hand to view the contest, according to Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com.

NFC Notes: Seahawks, Ryan, Packers, Saints

Several players from the Super Bowl champion Seahawks had their 2014 salaries become fully guaranteed this week, notes Jason Fitzgerald of OverTheCap.com in his latest update on teams’ cap space. Percy Harvin, Cliff Avril, and Kam Chancellor had their contracts for 2014 vest from partially guaranteed to fully guaranteed, according to Fitzgerald, who notes that Matt Ryan of the Falcons was among the other players in that boat.

Here’s more from across the NFC:

  • Having drafted well and avoided bad contracts, the Packers will have significantly more cap flexibility this offseason than many of their NFC rivals, says Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
  • 13 players from the Saints‘ Super Bowl win in 2010 remain on the team’s roster, but as many of nine of those players could depart this offseason, writes Mike Triplett of ESPN.com. As Triplett points out, four are unrestricted free agents, while five more are potential cap casualties.
  • Compensatory picks for the 2014 draft won’t be announced for a few more weeks, and the Falcons‘ situation is murky, as D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes. Based on projections by Craig Turner (via Philly.com), the Falcons could add as many as four compensatory picks, but may end up with just one or two, depending on where the cutoff is.
  • The Redskins have hired former Super Bowl MVP Doug Williams to their front office as a personnel executive, the team announced today in a press release.

NFC Notes: Avril, Gonzalez, 49ers, Eagles

Cliff Avril may have cost himself some long-term money when he reportedly turned down a three-year, $30MM extension offer from the Lions before the 2012 season. Avril ultimately played the 2012 season as a franchise player, then signed a more modest two-year deal with the Seahawks a year ago. However, as he told reporters yesterday, including Kyle Meinke of MLive.com, Avril doesn’t have any regrets or hard feelings toward the Lions, who didn’t re-engaged in contract discussions after applying the franchise tag on the defensive end.

“It’s not like I’m making pennies,” Avril said. “Again, I can’t complain. I’m fortunate enough to be where I’m at right now. There’s definitely no bitterness though.”

Here are a few more Monday notes from around the NFC:

  • Tony Gonzalez, who played in his record-tying 14th Pro Bowl last night, expressed that he is “at peace” and will not be talked out of his plans to retire after the 2013 season, according to a tweet by ESPN.com’s Falcons reporter Vaughn McClure.
  • While the Falcons may focus on scouting players who are best suited for the team’s 3-4 scheme, GM Thomas Dimitroff acknowledged that Atlanta could use any pass-rushers capable of getting the quarterback consistently. McClure has the quotes and the details.
  • Kevin Lynch of the San Francisco Chronicle explains why it may be in both Colin Kaepernick‘s and the 49ers‘ best interests to work out a long-term deal sooner rather than later.
  • There’s a 75% chance Anquan Boldin re-signs with the 49ers, in the opinion of ESPN.com’s Bill Williamson, who also predicts the odds of other free agents returning to San Francisco.
  • Tim McManus of PhillyMag.com spoke to cap expert Joel Corry about a number of decisions facing the Eagles this offseason.
  • The Packers are working out free agent fullback Jonathan Amosa today, according to Aaron Wilson of the National Football Post. Amosa, a University of Washington product, was with Green Bay during training camp.

David Kipke contributed to this post.