How Does Cliff Avril Fit in with the Seattle Seahawks?

Tyson LanglandNFC West Lead WriterMarch 13, 2013

Dec. 16, 2012; Glendale, AZ, USA: Detroit Lions defensive end Cliff Avril (92) against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Cardinals defeated the Lions 38-10. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

One day after officially announcing the Percy Harvin mega-deal, John Schneider and the Seattle Seahawks were back at it again on Wednesday. However, this time around the big ticket acquisition wasn't on the offensive side of the ball. 

It was on the defensive line, more specifically defensive end. Many fans and media members alike expected Seattle to address the defensive end position because of injuries and overall lack of depth, yet they didn't expect them to address the need on Day 2 of free agency. 

Most felt that they would use an early-round draft selection on an end, but lo and behold, the front office wasn't willing to wait. With cap room to spare, they decided to invest in a proven player by signing Cliff Avril to a two-year, $15 million deal (via John Clayton of ESPN):

Surely no one expected Avril to be available at this price after receiving the franchise tag last season, but a dip in production from 2011-to-2012 had more than a few organizations proceeding with caution. In 2011, Avril tallied 11 quarterback sacks, eight quarterback hits and 38 quarterback hurries. Fast forward to the end of the 2012 season, and it's easy to see why some teams may think his 2011 season was a fluke.

He had around the same number of quarterback sacks with 9.5, but his quarterback hits and quarterback hurries were down 46 percent. That's an alarming percentage at first glance, but there are a couple of underlying factors that need to be brought to the surface before one can make a conclusion. 

In 2012, Avril played approximately 181 fewer snaps than in 2011, his partner in crime opposite of him had an awful year and he battled through multiple injuries a majority of the season. And by no means am I trying to justify why he was devalued on the market, I'm simply giving my opinion as to why it happened. 

Although, it is ultimately great news for Pete Carroll and company. Yet there's one thing that still needs to be looked at: How will Dan Quinn deploy his newly acquired weapon from Detroit? Before I break it down with words, it may be best to just watch the video below.

When watching that highlight reel, the first thing that jumps off the screen to me is Avril's get off and speed around the corner. To be honest, it reminds me of the way Chris Clemons gets off the ball and to the quarterback.

Red Bryant does a fine job at left defensive end, but the reality is he offers zero upside as a top-flight pass-rusher. He's made his living at being stout against the run because of his size, but I think Schneider decided he wanted an elite pass rush at both ends of the defensive line. 

Easily expect Avril to start at left defensive end and Clemons to start at right defensive end, assuming he returns healthy. Bruce Irvin will continue to see rotational snaps at both end spots and could even start the first six weeks of the season if the organization needs to put Clemons on the PUP list. 

Another scenario to envision is having both Avril and Clemons stick their hand in the ground in passing situations with Irvin rushing from the stand up position. Talent evaluators like Greg Cosell believed No. 51 would have made a great rush outside linebacker in the 3-4, so don't think the idea is too far out there to consider. 

Seattle could also mimic what the New York Giants did a few years ago when Steve Spagnuolo was the defensive coordinator. New York deployed what was called a "nascar" package. All three defensive ends, Michael Strahan, Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora would rush the passer with their hand in the ground on the defensive line. 

One of three defensive ends would rush from the defensive tackle position, and the other two would rush from each end spot. If the Seahawks were to use the "nascar" package, Clemons would most likely be at defensive tackle with Avril and Irvin manning both end positions. 

At this point the opportunities for the defensive line are endless, and I'm sure defensive line coach Travis Jones feels the same way after Wednesday's acquisition.