Improved Lions face busy offseason

Updated: January 10, 2012, 10:45 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- The Detroit Lions made the playoffs for the first time since the 1999 season. Now the team's front office has some big contract decisions to make about some key players, and even the team's head coach.

Free agent defensive end Cliff Avril hopes the offseason includes signing a lucrative contract that keeps him in Detroit after making a career-high 11 sacks in his fourth year with the team.

"It's all about if they want me to be here," Avril said. "I definitely want to be here, but I have to do the right thing for me and my family also. This doesn't roll around that often as far as trying to set yourself up and your family for the future, so it definitely has a lot to do with that."

All-Pro wide receiver Calvin Johnson was not interested in answering questions about whether he wants a long-term deal before he plays the final year of his contract next season. Johnson probably can command a contract similar to the one Larry Fitzgerald signed with the Arizona Cardinals before the season (eight years, $120 million, with guarantees approaching $50 million).

"I'm not even going to talk about that right now," Johnson said. "I'm about to go home."

Coach Jim Schwartz, likewise, didn't want to comment on possibly getting a contract extension this offseason with one season left on the four-year deal he signed as a first-time head coach.

Detroit's other decisions this offseason include whether to re-sign offensive tackle Jeff Backus, linebacker Stephen Tulloch, kicker Jason Hanson, running back Kevin Smith and backup quarterback Shaun Hill.

Hanson, who was drafted by Detroit in 1992, clearly wants to be back after making 24 of 29 field goals last season.

"I hopefully showed them that I'm not as old as my hair," the 41-year-old Hanson joked. "And, that I can still do it. If they want me, I'll be ready."

If Detroit doesn't want Smith back to play behind Jahvid Best and Mikel Leshoure, Smith hopes he doesn't have to wait half a season to get a chance to play as he did in 2011. Best's third concussion ended his season after just six games, but he said it didn't end his career.

"I'll definitely be back," Best said. "I'm not worried about it."

The Lions' first priority this offseason will be evaluating their players before the front office, coaches and scouts focus on other free agents and then turn their attention toward prospects for the NFL draft in April. The franchise will likely stick with its plan of adding the best players available, not necessarily trying to fill voids, this offseason.

"It's a lot easier to see the needs that we have, but I don't think it changes your philosophy," Schwartz said. "We have a lot less needs than we have in the past."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.