Through an end that he and just about everyone else around the Seahawks have seen coming for months, Cliff Avril showed why he's one of Seattle's most popular players.
Avril gushed on about Seattle and his Seahawks time in this online goodbye letter to The Players' Tribune.
The Seahawks on Friday released the 32-year-old Pro Bowl defensive end seven months after his serious neck injury and resulting surgery that has now ended his career in Seattle, if not the NFL. Avril got kicked under the chin by the foot of Jacoby Brissett while he was diving and chasing the Indianapolis Colts quarterback from behind in a game Oct. 1. The blow snapped Avril's head back and caused nerve damage that caused him to lose feeling in his extremities.
Since then, his priorities have been his family and his many philanthropic interests, including in Haiti.
The former member of an 0-16 team in Detroit knows he is fortunate to be at the point of his life and career, a Super Bowl champion who has earned $25 million over the last four seasons, that he doesn’t need to play anymore. This coming year was to be the final one of the four-year, $28.5 million extension he signed in 2014. None of his $7 million remaining salary for 2018 was guaranteed.
Avril has far more going for him than just football. He and his wife Dantia have two young sons, Xavier and Xander. He and his Cliff Avril Family Foundation have held charity events such as backpack and school-supply giveaways to kids to raise awareness for childhood diabetes. He has donated money for each of his 14 1/2 sacks over the last two seasons to build homes in impoverished Haiti. He has visited the island nation to do some of the building; he returned this offseason to paint and polish those schools. His father emigrated from Haiti in 1982, four years before Avril was born. Avril visited the Caribbean nation as a kid every summer to see his grandmother.
That’s a life after football worth living. And that’s a choice Avril will be making--but only after he is convinced he can shoot hoops with his boys long beyond his days playing in the NFL.
Since the Seahawks last played a game, on New Year's Eve to end their first non-playoff season in six years, they've lost both their Pro Bowl defensive ends. They traded Michael Bennett in March.
Avril is hugely popular inside the Seahawks’ locker room and around Seattle not just for sacks and winning the Super Bowl but for being an all-around good guy. Teammates such as fellow ends Frank Clark and Bennett have been scared by Avril’s injury and situation. Coach Pete Carroll said Friday "I love him."
"Cliff was a fantastic player for us. We were very fortunate to get him back when we did years ago," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said Friday. "And because of where he had been and what he had been through, he came in with a chip on his shoulder and something to prove, and did nothing but great stuff. He has been a great leader and a bit of a statesman for us. He always says the right thing and stands for the right stuff and he has been a really high-character guy who you can just always count on. He has been a great competitor in the program, and I love him.
"And we’d like to keep him connected with our club as long as we can, because he’s just exactly what you’d hope to represent you. He has had a great career with us. We couldn’t have done it without him. I know this is a turn for him, but it’s a good turn. He’s had a good career that he put behind him and he’s moving on feeling good, and we’ll always be grateful for all the work he brought us.”
Releasing Avril with the failed-physical designation entitles him, per the NFL collective bargaining agreement, to a payment of $1.15 million for this year because of a debilitating injury. That counts against Seattle's salary cap. That plus dead money, a $500,000 sunk-cost bonus, bring the Seahawks' savings against the 2018 salary cap for releasing Avril to $5,975,000.