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Cliff Avril struggling to perform for Detroit Lions

Cliff Avril took a pretty big risk during the offseason. The Detroit Lions defensive end wanted a lucrative long-term contract after posting 8.5 sacks in 2010 and 11 sacks in 2011. The Lions' best offer, reportedly, was $30 million over three years.

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Avril declined, took the franchise tender of $10.6 million and set out to prove himself again in 2012 with hopes of a major payday as a free agent after the season. He's not thrilled with the way things have panned out.

"It's still five games to play," Avril told MLive.com. "No, I don't really think I'm anywhere near my expectations of how I expect to play. I don't think I'm anywhere near that right now, but like I said, I got five games to continue to keep chopping away, to continue to play fast and have fun."

Avril has 7.5 sacks, including three in the last two games. He had 4.5 through the first seven weeks.

It will be an interesting market for Avril. Premier pass rushers make bank as unrestricted free agents, but does Avril fit the bill? He ranks No. 18 in sacks, but has he missed the opportunity to reach double-digits for the second consecutive year? He just hasn't had the same impact as he did in 2011. And how much of his effectiveness comes from playing alongside Ndamukong Suh?

That's part of the reason the Lions hesitated to send the Brinks truck to Avril's crib. He's not in the same class as J.J. Watt, Cameron Wake, Jared Allen and Jason Pierre-Paul. But it's hard to argue against the numbers if Avril reaches 10-plus sacks again.

"They say it (sacks) comes in bunches," Avril said. "I hope they continue to come. I'm just playing ball. I'm just having fun. I'm just trying to make plays to help the team win. However that comes, if it's sacks, forced fumbles, whatever the case may be, I just want to continue to keep building, keep getting better, and helping the team win."

Follow Kareem Copeland on Twitter @kareemcopeland.

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