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Would Avril be an upgrade over Benett? Some say no

Posted Mar 12, 2013 by Roy Cummings

Updated Mar 12, 2013 at 12:12 PM

Tribune Staff

TAMPA – The Buccaneers are prepared to say goodbye to left defensive end Michael Bennett, but the scouts working for ESPN’s Insider section believe that may be a mistake, even if the replacement is Cliff Avril.

The Insider’s latest rankings of available free agents has Bennett ranked fifth overall and first among defensive ends, 10 spots ahead of Avril. Oddly, pass rush production is the reason.

Though Avril, 26, has recorded 29 sacks the last three years, the ESPN Insiders say he has struggled since 2010 to match the sixth-place pass-rush productivity score he posted that year.

Bennett, meanwhile, is coming off a year when his pass-rush productivity score of 71 – which is the combination of all sacks, hits and hurries – ranked ninth among all defensive players.

Avril finished 15th and 40th in that ranking the last two years respectively, but the insiders believe that may have been a result of Avril working in what they say was a predictable Lions pass rush scheme.

One thing the insiders didn’t point out that the Bucs no doubt like about Avril is his ability to strip the ball. He has 16 forced fumbles in his career, three times as many as Bennett, who has four.

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