If the Lions can't re-sign Cliff Avril before the start of free agency, they won't have too many enticing options to replace him.

First, dominant pass rushers don't make their way onto the open market often. They're drafted and developed, cultivated and cared for until finally they cost too much or their skills decline and they're let free.

Avril might not be dominant himself, not in the Von Miller, Aldon Smith sense of the word at least. He has had one double-digit sack season in five years, but he's 26 and homegrown and still the Lions' best option in what's shaping up to be a crucial spring.

If Avril hits the market and some other team drops bags of unmarked bills at his feet, the Lions will need a veteran to replace him, and anyone who can get to a passer won't come cheap.

Dwight Freeney would be a fit, but he's 33, wants to play for a contender and whoever signs him will be seeking his replacement again in two years.

Cincinnati's Michael Johnson is a prime candidate for the franchise tag. Baltimore's Paul Kruger is coming off a Super Bowl win (and better as an outside linebacker anyway). Dallas' Anthony Spencer is two years older than Kruger and in search of his own big-money deal.