Cliff Avril has been teasing Seahawks fans with some wishful thinking for his return from a serious neck injury.
For the second time this month, Avril hinted that he might return to play.
“I believe so,” Avril told NFL Network on Monday. “Right now it’s all about recovery. I had surgery. I’m in the process of recovering. It’s a long process, a long journey. When I get to the end of that, then I’ll figure out what’s next.
“It’s what I’ve been doing forever and, just as a competitor, I want to show that I can come back if it’s possible, you know?” Avril said. “You do see all the injuries. You see the game from a different perspective when you’re on the sideline. And those thoughts do definitely pop into my head of: ‘Should I come back or not?’ But again, right now it’s all about recovery.”
Nothing about that confirms a return, although it indicates he has not decided to retire yet. It’s kind of like the recent video with Richard Sherman in which Avril said, “The last five years have been great and hopefully we have some more together.”
As great as it would be if he could come back and play for Seattle, with no threat of life-altering injury, the 31-year-old clearly is just being optimistic at this point.
Pete Carroll revealed the sober truth of the situation for both Avril and Kam Chancellor when he told 710 ESPN the day after the season, “Cliff and Kam are going to have a hard time playing football again.”
One report did indicate Avril has a better chance than Chancellor, so let’s assume Avril can play again and the Hawks are willing to keep him at his $7.5 million salary. What would that mean for the team?
Mainly, it would mean John Schneider was forgoing an attempt to keep Sheldon Richardson.
We’re already assuming Schneider will not re-sign Jimmy Graham, Paul Richardson or Eddie Lacy. Luke Joeckel is unlikely as well. But the Hawks seemingly want/need to keep Bradley McDougald and RFAs Justin Coleman and Dion Jordan, with Luke Willson and Byron Maxwell preferred bargain re-signees, too.
Young Sheldon probably will not be interested in signing a new deal before free agency — he wants to test the market. That means the only way to keep him from free agency would be to put the franchise tag on him, at a projected $14.5 million. With Avril on the roster, the Hawks could not tag Richardson and still bring back the aforementioned players — even if they added $10.6 million in savings by cutting Jeremy Lane (a foregone conclusion), Michael Bennett, Jon Ryan and Neiko Thorpe.
If Avril were to retire — or if the team were to release a healthy Avril — the Hawks would net $7.5 million against the cap. That could allow them to tag Richardson, if they wanted — whether to keep him or trade him.
As for Chancellor, we still think it is possible he retires. But most disagree, saying it would be dumb of him to give up $12 million in guarantees over the next two years.
But it doesn’t matter that much: The team would gain just $2.3 million in cap space by his voluntary retirement anyway. So let’s just assume for now that he will be on the roster in some form (PUP, IR, whatever) in 2018.
Among the interesting tidbits from Joel Corry’s breakdown of the financial elements of the safety’s contract: His $6.8 million becomes fully guaranteed Feb. 10 and he is due the remaining $6.2 million of his guaranteed $10 million signing bonus on April 1.
One thing that won’t happen: The Seahawks cutting him. The Hawks would eat up their cap space — and they don’t do that to injured stars anyway.
Bennett, 32, seems to think the Hawks might let him go, and one report puts the chances at 70 percent that they will. His release would save the team $2 million.
But, if both Bennett and Avril are gone, Seattle will be in extreme need of an impact defensive end to pair with Frank Clark. While Jordan appears to have great upside, the team can’t count on him alone. Marcus Smith could be a cheap re-sign, and Branden Jackson will be kept as an ERFA, but the Hawks definitely need to target a pass rusher in the draft.
The Hawks get a rare financial break with Jordan, who is a very unique restricted free agent. Because of his previous suspensions and injuries, the former first-round pick has completed just three seasons. So the Seahawks could tender him at the low level of $1.9 million yet still receive first-round protection if any other team were to sign him to an offer sheet. Based on Carroll’s excitement level, it seems like the Hawks are strongly leaning toward tendering him.
Some continue to think the Hawks would simply cut Richard Sherman to save $11 million vs. the cap. Several problems with that logic: (1) They don’t cut injured stars, (2) they wouldn’t just let Sherman go for nothing and (3) they are already likely to lose a lot of veteran leaders (Avril, Chancellor, Bennett).
The Hawks seem likely to let Sherman rehab back from his Achilles injury (he’s expected back in July) and play out the final year of his deal. They would then let him leave in free agency in 2019 and hope to accrue a comp pick for him in 2020. Perhaps if some team offers a second-round pick for the recovering All-Pro cornerback, Schneider might take it (since he probably would have tried to trade a healthy Sherman this offseason anyway). We put the chances of Sherman being back in Seattle for 2018 at 80 percent.
As for the idea of Seattle extending Sherman, that seems unlikely. As great a player as he has become, he has been a very vocal distraction at times — breaking Carroll’s No. 1 rule to “protect the team” — and Carroll and Schneider probably are ready to move on when it’s naturally time.