INDIANAPOLIS - Detroit Lions head coach Jim Schwartz kicked off the proceedings this morning at the NFL Combine, and while he spent most of his 15 minutes discussing his team rather than the draft, there was one potential item of interest for the Patriots.
Lions defensive end/outside linebacker Cliff Avril is scheduled to become a free agent when the new league begins March 13. Given Avril's versatility to perform a variety of roles off the edge many New England fans have logically wondered how he might look in a Patriots uniform.
Judging from Schwartz' comments on the pass rusher, they may have to wait longer than expected to get that chance. While the Lions coach made no guarantees, it sure seemed like Avril remained very much in Detroit's plan moving forward.
"Cliff's very important for us," Schwartz began. "He took a big step for us this year by being able to be on the field every week. Like we talked about with Matthew [Stafford], staying healthy was big for Cliff. When you have guys that fit your scheme they're important to us."
Obviously how important Avril winds up being will depend on the money it is willing to offer and how much Avril want to accept. But clearly if it's up to Schwartz Avril won't be going anywhere anytime soon.
"When you're looking at potential players who can help, it's really important to look at the guys we already have," Schwartz added.
Avril played all 16 games for the first time of his career and notched career-highs in sacks (11), forced fumbles (6), fumble recoveries (3) and interceptions (1). Avril has been a consistent big-lay threat during his four-year career in Detroit with 30 sacks and 14 forced fumbles.