The Lions can use the franchise tag on Avril to keep him off the market with a one-year deal for the average of the five highest-paid defensive ends as soon as Monday or as late as March 5.
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"I honestly don't know if they're going to franchise me or make a deal," Avril said in a telephone interview Friday with the Associated Press. "I want a deal, obviously."
Free agency begins March 13. The 25-year-old Avril has a combined 19½ sacks the past two seasons and 30 in his four-year career.
The Lions have said they want to keep Avril for the long haul, but his agent doesn't sound encouraged by how negotiations have gone so far.
"Talks are going very slowly," said agent Brian Mackler, refusing to get into details.
Team president Tom Lewand declined comment Friday and general manager Martin Mayhew has said he doesn't plan to use the franchise tag.