Avril's football future had been in serious doubt since he suffered a career-threatening neck/spine injury last October, causing him to miss the final 12 games of the season. Avril, 32, said earlier in the offseason that he would sit down with his family and discuss his football future sometime in the spring, by which point he would have been roughly six months removed from surgery.
"He's been a great leader. He's been a bit of a statesman for us. He always says the right thing, stands for the right stuff and been a really high character guy that you can always count on,'' Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said after the team concluded the first day of its rookie minicamp. "A great competitor in the program. I love him and would like to keep him connected with our club as long as we can because he's just exactly what you hope to represent you. He's had a great career with us.''
It was not clear from the team's announcement whether Avril will try to resume his career. Avril told The Players' Tribune that he's undecided on whether to continue playing.
"As of right now, I'm not sure what the future holds for me. A lot of people have been asking me if I'm considering retirement, and all I can really say is that I'm working closely with my doctors and that I'm going to make the best decision for myself and my family when the time is right."
Either way, he's another longtime Seahawk to part ways with the team during an offseason of big-name departures. Seattle released cornerback Richard Sherman, traded defensive end Michael Bennett and lost tight end Jimmy Graham in free agency. Kam Chancellor's football future is also up in the air because of a neck/spine injury of his own.
But Avril's release seemed like a matter of course, given that there had been no indication from the team that he was healing to the point of being able to play in 2018.
He thanked Seahawks fans, the organization and his teammates in an Instagram post.
Thank you 12s for making the last 5 years in Seattle so amazing! Your cheers on Sundays are unmatched, and you guys are by far the best fans in the NFL! Most importantly, I appreciate and value the lifelong friendships I've made. You all have supported my family, my foundation (the Cliff Avril Family Foundation), and I throughout my entire tenure, and I could not have asked for more! THANK YOU to the entire Seahawk organization as well as my teammates. You all made me a Pro Bowler and a Super Bowl Champ! I am forever grateful. THANK YOU! #HAITIANCREATION
Avril's release is expected to clear as much as $7.125 million against the 2018 salary cap. It's believed that he could also qualify for an injury protection worth $1.15 million -- which would be a cap charge -- if his injury prevents him from playing again.
Avril had one season left on the contract extension he signed in 2014.
A third-round pick by the Detroit Lions in 2008, Avril joined the Seahawks as a free agent in 2013 and became one of the key defensive cogs during the most successful stretch in franchise history. He produced 34.5 sacks over five seasons in Seattle, plus 6.5 more in 10 playoff games. Perhaps his most indelible play with the Seahawks was a hit on Peyton Manning in Super Bowl XLVIII that forced an errant pass, which linebacker Malcolm Smith intercepted and returned for a touchdown in Seattle's 43-8 win over the Denver Broncos.
Avril made his only Pro Bowl after posting a career-high 11.5 sacks in 2016. He built a home in Haiti, where his parents are from, for every sack he recorded that season and has continued his charitable efforts there since.