RENTON — A day after adding an impact player on offense, the Seattle Seahawks addressed the team’s most pressing need in free agency — bringing in a speedy pass rusher.
And like the addition of Percy Harvin to Seattle’s offense, the Seahawks added an explosive playmaker to the defensive side of the ball Wednesday, agreeing to terms with Detroit Lions free agent defensive end Cliff Avril.
The Seahawks have not confirmed the agreement. However, according to the league’s website, Avril is expected to sign a two-year, $15 million contract once he passes a physical at the team’s Renton headquarters today.
The Lions replaced Avril with defensive lineman Jason Jones, who spent last season with the Seahawks.
Avril, who turns 27 next month, gives Seattle a proven pass-rush lineman as insurance, with Chris Clemons, the team’s leader in sacks the past three seasons, still rehabbing from a torn anterior cruciate ligament injury he suffered in January’s NFC Wild-Card playoff game in Washington.
Seattle’s brass has concerns Clemons will not be fully healthy by the opening of training camp
in late July. And although first-round draft choice Bruce Irvin led all rookies in sacks with eight last season, the West Virginia product struggled in his only start, totaling one tackle and no sacks in Seattle’s NFC divisional playoff loss at Atlanta.
The Seahawks tied for 18th in regular-season sacks with 36 in 2012.
Avril gives Seattle a veteran pass rusher in case Clemons is not ready for the team’s season opener in September. At 6-foot-3 and 252 pounds, Avril totaled 9.5 sacks and forced two fumbles in 2012, and has 39.5 sacks in his five seasons in the league.
However, Avril also has benefited from playing with one of the NFL’s more dominant defensive lines, which includes defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley and defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch.
A third-round pick in the 2008 draft by the Lions, Avril sought a long-term contract from the Lions before the 2012 season, but reportedly declined a three-year, $30 million offer. Instead, he played for the $10.5 million franchise tag in hopes of netting a lucrative deal this offseason.
Although his two-year deal comes in much lower than fellow defensive end Paul Kruger’s five-year, $40 million agreement with Cleveland, the accord allows Avril to hit the market again at age 28 if he plays well.
Signing with Detroit is a homecoming for Jones, who grew up just outside the city in Southfield, Mich. The 26-year-old Jones also reunites with Detroit head coach Jim Schwartz, who was the defensive coordinator for Tennessee when the Titans selected the former basketball standout in the second round of the 2008 draft.
The 6-foot-5, 272-pound Jones signed a one-year, $4.5 million deal with Seattle last offseason, hoping to put up enough big statistics to get a long-term contract this year.
However, Jones finished with 10 tackles and three sacks in 12 games as a backup at defensive end and defensive tackle. He signed a reported, three-year, $9.5 million deal with the Lions. Jones proved to be an effective inside pass rusher for Seattle, but finished on the injured reserve list for the second season in a row.