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Thursday, January 12, 2012
All three Lions coordinators will return

By Kevin Seifert
ESPN.com

In discussing a mailbag question Wednesday, we saw no indication that the Detroit Lions were planning any changes to their defensive coaching staff after a late-season slide. Thursday, general manager Martin Mayhew confirmed that defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham had signed a new contract to return in 2012.

The same goes for offensive coordinator Scott Linehan and special teams coordinator Danny Crossman. So there you go: all three will be back.

Cunningham's future wasn't an unreasonable discussion point, but coach Jim Schwartz had never suggested anything but support for his friend and longtime colleague.

Mayhew spoke Thursday to a group of Detroit-area writers, acknowledging that the Lions have some difficult offseason work ahead of them. He said he will approach receiver Calvin Johnson about a contract extension, presumably to lower a projected $22 million cap number, but said a deal this offseason isn't "something that absolutely has to be done." As we discussed Monday, if the Lions don't extend Johnson, he would be eligible for a crushing franchise tag figure of about $26.4 million in 2013.

Mayhew also said he hopes to re-sign defensive end Cliff Avril and left tackle Jeff Backus, both of whom are eligible to become unrestricted free agents. Mayhew wouldn't commit to using the franchise tag on Avril if the sides can't come to an agreement before the free agent market opens in March.

Here are reports from Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, Chris McCosky of the Detroit News, Anwar S. Richardson of Mlive.com and Tim Twentyman of the Lions website.