"There are a lot of moving pieces in free agency and we started down the road with some guys and we were in those talks," Mayhew told Birkett at the NFL Annual Meeting. "You start thinking about bringing a guy back, bringing Cliff back, and it probably would have cost us two players to bring him back, if you think about it that way.
"And we just felt like we'd be better served to sign the guys that we were talking to."
The Lions and Avril had been doing this dance for some time. Avril turned down a three-year, $30 million deal before accepting the franchise tag for 2012. There were limited talks during the season and the Lions didn't make a formal offer once free agency started. Avril eventually signed a two-year, $13 million contract ($11 million guaranteed) with the Seattle Seahawks. Both the Lions and Seahawks deals offered the same in guaranteed cash, according to Birkett.
Avril had a careeer-high 11 sacks and six forced fumbles, four passes defensed and an interception for Detroit in 2011. He wasn't quite as effective in 2012 with 9.5 sacks, one forced fumble and one pass defensed.
Avril gambled on himself and didn't find the windfall he hoped for. The Lions moved on, losing a young, productive pass rusher but signing other targets. Time will tell if there were any winners in all this.