Ex-Lion Avril finds new life with Seahawks

Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News

Phoenix — Cliff Avril rejected his invitation to stay with the Lions, the team that drafted him. Now, after two years with the Seahawks, the defensive end has every intention of remaining in Seattle.

"I've kind of found a home here in Seattle for, Lord willing, the rest of my career," Avril said Monday at the Arizona Grand Resort, six days before he'll play in a second consecutive Super Bowl.

Last month the Seahawks signed Avril to a four-year, $28.5 million extension that will keep him in Seattle through 2018. Avril signed with the Seahawks in 2013 after playing under the franchise tag with the Lions in 2012.

Before placing the tag on Avril, the Lions offered him a three-year, $30 million deal to keep the 2008 third-round pick, an offer he earned after having 11 sacks and six forced fumbles in 2011. But he rejected the offer, and after 2012, he accepted the Seahawks' offer of $13 million over two years.

"I'm definitely happy with how it came about," he said. "Obviously at the time, you definitely wanted (the money) then, but everything happens for a reason."

Ultimately, Avril missed out on more than $6 million by rejecting the Lions' offer, combining his $10.6 million salary under the franchise tag and $13 million deal with the Seahawks.

The Lions have said they didn't regret losing Avril, and they replaced him by signing Jason Jones in 2013 and drafting Ezekiel Ansah fifth overall the same year. Plus, they used the money saved the past two years to sign free agents like safety Glover Quin and wide receiver Golden Tate, both of whom played in the Pro Bowl Sunday.

Of course, there is more than money involved in some free-agent decisions, and it's hard to deny Avril's individual and team success since he left the Lions. Last season Avril had eight sacks and forced five fumbles. This year he had five sacks and forced one fumble, but he rotates in and out much more than he did during his last couple of years with the Lions. His pass rushing ability has helped the Seahawks have the No. 1 defense each of the past two seasons.

"It's been amazing," Avril said. "I've been blessed to see both ends of the spectrum, not winning any games (in 2008) to pretty much getting to the top the last two years, so I appreciate it a lot just for the simple fact that what I've gone through. I appreciate just being able to get to the top and be the No. 1, the last team standing. So, I appreciate it probably a little more than some of the younger guys."

A little less Golden

The Seahawks clearly missed wide receiver Golden Tate in 2014, even though they managed to make it to the Super Bowl.

With Tate in Detroit, Doug Baldwin led Seattle with 66 catches for 825 yards. No other receiver had more than 38 catches, and Jermaine Kearse was the only other for Seattle who had more than 367 yards (537).

Tate, meanwhile, was a Pro Bowler in his first season with the Lions, setting career highs with 99 catches for 1,331 yards. However, while the Seahawks missed that production, Baldwin said the Seahawks' seemingly ordinary receiving corps used the negative talk to their advantage.

"I think we got the negativity and the disrespect in a different way," Baldwin said Monday. "Saying we miss Percy (Harvin) or we miss Golden (Tate) or the no names who are out here at receiver, we enjoy that. It adds some motivation. It adds some flare to it. We embrace it. I have a shirt underneath my sweatshirt that says, 'Pedestrians with attitude.' We enjoy the label because we embrace it."

Lions coach to Raiders

Bobby Johnson, the Lions' assistant offensive line coach in 2014, accepted a job as the tight ends coach for the Oakland Raiders, according to multiple reports.

Johnson has been with the Lions for two years and coached tight ends under Jim Schwartz in 2013. When the Lions fired Schwartz and hired Jim Caldwell, Johnson moved to the assistant offensive line position.

The Lions could promote Terry Heffernan to replace Johnson. Heffernan served as offensive quality control coach in 2014, but worked primarily with the line and was assistant offensive line coach in 2013.

Johnson started coaching in 1995 and worked primarily with tight ends and offensive linemen. He's been in the NFL since 2010, spending two years with the Buffalo Bills, then a year with the Jacksonville Jaguars before coming to Detroit.

Caldwell has known Johnson since he was an offensive line coach at Indiana (2005-09) while Caldwell was coaching with the Indianapolis Colts. Now, he'll join Jack Del Rio's staff in Oakland and become the first Lions coach to leave this offseason.