- Jamison Hensley, ESPN Staff Writer
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The Browns will pursue Lions pass-rusher Cliff Avril in free agency, a league source told The Plain Dealer. For this to happen, the Browns would have to be willing to offer a contract that averages about $10 million per season and Avril would have to be comfortable with a position change.
Landing Avril would be a boost to Cleveland's pass rush and represent a big free-agent splash for the team's new regime. Avril is considered one of the top five free agents available this year after recording 29 sacks and nine forced fumbles over the past three seasons.
Avril's production, though, came as a defensive end in the Lions' 4-3 defense. The Browns would be making a big investment in Avril while asking him to shift to an outside linebacker in Ray Horton's new 3-4 defense.
There's no question that Avril would make an impact on a defense that finished 11th in sacks last season. The bigger question is whether the Browns would be overpaying for a defender who struggles against the run and who played only 66 percent of Detroit's defensive snaps last season.
The Browns have to be careful because this is the same situation involving another potential target, the Ravens' Paul Kruger. He's a very effective pass-rusher but doesn't fare well against the run.
According to the Detroit News, the Lions aren't having ongoing negotiations with Avril, who received the franchise tag last year. The paper reported that the Lions may not offer Avril anything more than $8 million per season.
As The Plain Dealer pointed out, the Browns could have the inside track on Avril in free agency. Joe Cullen, the Browns' new defensive line coach, helped draft Avril in 2008 and coached him in his rookie season.
The Browns wouldn't be the only team going after Avril. The Colts could also target Avril after parting ways with Dwight Freeney.