Pass rusher Cliff Avril says he's headed to Seattle

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Defensive end Cliff Avril said he was headed to Seattle.

That described both the destination on his itinerary Wednesday and his intention in free agency as the defensive end from Detroit — one of the top free agents available on the market — confirmed a pending agreement to become a Seahawk.

He declined any further comment until the deal is signed, but the fact he’s coming to Seattle is statement enough.

One day after signing receiver Percy Harvin to the largest contract in franchise history, the Seahawks were poised to address the most glaring need on their team with Avril a pass-rusher who is 26 years old and has 29 sacks over the past three years with the Lions.

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“Welcome big man,” quarterback Russell Wilson posted on his Twitter account. “I luckily don’t have to get chased around by you anymore. #ChampionshipOffseason.”

“That’s a good pick up for us!” safety Earl Thomas wrote, also via Twitter.

Actually, Thomas used four exclamation points. Yes, this was that kind of acquisition. A little bit of shock and awe arriving so unexpectedly on the second day of NFL free agency.

Not just because Avril is a former third-round choice who has logged more than eight sacks in each of the past three seasons and was so effective the Lions designated him their franchise player in 2012, paying him $10.6 million.

It’s not just because improving the pass rush was Seattle’s biggest need, either, with top pass-rusher Chris Clemons recovering from knee surgery and Bruce Irvin the only player on the roster who had more than three sacks in 2012.

The addition of Avril was jarring because Seattle seemed so very unlikely to make another big-budget addition after the acquisition of Harvin.

That move cost Seattle three draft choices and a significant chunk of money. Most expected the Seahawks to stand down in free agency, and when the Detroit Lions signed Jason Jones from Seattle on Wednesday, it wasn’t exactly shocking. Jones was a player the Seahawks brought onboard to improve the pass rush a year ago. Seattle gave the former second-round choice a one-year deal that paid a little more than $4 million and used him as a situational pass-rusher. He played 12 games, had three sacks and finished the year on injured reserve after a knee injury.

When Jones left for a three-year deal from the Lions, it only added more questions to how Seattle would upgrade its pass rush.

The answer arrived before dinner on Wednesday with the news Avril had agreed to join the Seahawks, which was first reported by the NFL Network and subsequently confirmed via telephone by Avril himself.

The team doesn’t comment on any deal before it’s finalized and Avril’s agent didn’t return multiple messages, but Avril confirmed he was headed to Seattle. While no deal is finalized, John Clayton of ESPN reported it will be a two-year deal worth $15 million if every incentive is achieved.

Avril was rated the top available free agent by Peter King, longtime NFL reporter at Sports Illustrated. Avril was rated right ahead of Paul Kruger, who left Baltimore for Cleveland on the first day of free agency, reportedly for a five-year deal worth $40 million.

Avril is betting on his success in Seattle, taking a shorter contract while the Seahawks appear poised to make a top-shelf addition for the second time in a week.

Danny O’Neil: 206-464-2364 or

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Key free-agent signings Wednesday (story, C2):
Pos. Player Old team New team
WR Wes Welker Patriots Broncos
RB Reggie Bush Dolphins Lions
S Dashon Goldson 49ers Buccaneers
WR Danny Amendola Rams Patriots
RB Rashard Mendenhall Steelers Cardinals
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