The Biggest Free Agent For The Detroit Lions Could Receive A Franchise Tag In 2018.
If you were to ask a Detroit Lions fan back in 2015, they would say starting defensive end Ziggy Ansah would be worth a long-term contract.
Two years later and the uncertainty about the subject is debatable.
The former first-round pick in 2013 had three straight impressive seasons for the Lions. Then injuries riddled his success in 2016, and while his numbers look good in 2017, his durability and how he got those stats are what makes Lions fans question if he is worth the money.
Ziggy Ansah’s Time In Detroit
Coming into the league as a rookie at age 24, Ansah showed why he was a first-round pick, getting eight sacks, 17 tackles, two forced fumbles and one pass deflection. He would keep improving and in 2015, he finished with 14.5 sacks, 39 tackles, four forced fumbles, and two fumble recoveries.
2016 was a different tale for the star defensive end. The team would announce that they would sign Ansah’s fifth-year tender, but Ansah wouldn’t be the same. Ansah dealt with ankle and knee injuries all year long, causing him to miss three games and be limited in many. He went from 14.5 sacks to just two.
This year was somewhat of a “prove it” type of year and Ansah showed he can still do what he does best. He started off the season rough by still being limited in games with an ankle injury, but on the second half of the season he would finally jump off the injury report and start to turn his season around.
Ansah finished the 2017 season with 12 sacks, 39 tackles, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. What people are questionable about Ansah though is who those sacks were up against. Week two he took on tackle Erik Flowers, one of the worst starting tackles in the NFL, and he got three sacks. He wouldn’t get a sack until week five against Carolina, then week nine against Minnesota he got one, and week 13 against Tampa Bay he would get one.
It was the final two games of the season that Ansah would explode for six sacks, three per game against the Cincinnati Bengals and Green Bay Packers. Those lines weren’t the best as going into the Cincinnati game, they had the worst rushing game in the NFL.
Re-Sign Or Rebuild?
One of the big things besides health that people talk about when it comes to Ansah is age. Ansah will be 29 in 2018, and around 30 is the age where every player starts to dip somewhat, but Ansah will only be able to cash in for one big contract instead of two that some get.
This one is really tough because you don’t know what type of Ziggy Ansah you are getting. Are you getting the healthy animal that dominated in 2014? The injured Lion in 2016? Or the inconsistent one in 2017? While the assumption that 2017 was a “prove it” type of deal for Ansah, in Detroit’s eyes at least, 2018 is that year.
Teams may want to pay Ansah the big bucks during the off-season, but Detroit knows his worth. They have seen his workload, his medical history, and his off the field presence. It all really depends on what Ansah wants in the end though. Detroit could decide to franchise tag him or re-sign him to a deal, or he could go for more money somewhere else. In the end, Detroit should franchise tag him and while it won’t be cheap, it could be better for Ansah and the team in the long run. It gives GM Bob Quinn and company another year before they decide to pay Ansah some serious cash.
If Detroit decides to let Ansah walk, some of the best defensive ends available in free agency are DeMarcus Lawrence in Dallas, who will most likely get franchise tagged as well, or re-sign with Dallas, Adrian Clayborn, and Alex Okafor.
Another route the team could do is draft players in the draft. Along with defensive tackle being deep in depth in the draft, so is the defensive end position. Some of the players the Lions could target are Arden Key from LSU, Clelin Ferrell and Austin Bryant from Clemson, and Sam Hubbard from Ohio State.