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Cliff Avril open to 3-4 switch in free-agent search

Cliff Avril has been a 4-3 defensive end for his entire five-year professional career. He's set to hit free agency next week since he has not had significant contract talks with the Detroit Lions.

At 6-foot-3, 260 pounds, Avril isn't the most physical end in the world. He's a pass-rush specialist. The Cleveland Browns have shown an interest, but they're converting to a 3-4 system under new defensive coordinator Ray Horton.

Avril is open to the switch, MLive.com's Anwar Richardson reported Friday.

"I think I can do it. I thought I was going to be a 3-4 coming out, obviously," Avril said. "I ended up getting drafted to the Lions at the defensive end position. The weird thing is all the guys out of Purdue from the last few drafts who played end became 3-4 ends. I'm the only one out of all of those guys who played linebacker and became a defensive end. Maybe I'll join that club, if it's the case."

Avril will be one of the more interesting free agents to watch. He views himself as an elite pass-rusher, but has never surpassed 11 sacks in a single season. That's why the Lions franchised him in 2012 and will let him test the market now. Avril actually has talked about approaching the contract numbers of Buffalo Bills defensive end Mario Williams (six years, $100 million). There's no way that happens and even Avril knows that deep down. He turned down a three-year, $30 million deal before being tagged.

There's a wide gap between what Avril wants and what the Lions think the 26-year-old is worth. We'll see what the market determines.

Follow Kareem Copeland on Twitter @kareemcopeland.

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