Detroit Lions Franchise Tag Defensive End Ziggy Ansah.
On Tuesday, the Detroit Lions used their franchise tag to keep defensive end Ziggy Ansah through the 2018 season. It is estimated the tag will be roughly $17.5m for the year. While that is steep, according to spotrac.com the Lions should have $30m left to sign depth on at several positions of need before the draft.
This Lions defensive end rotation has a lot of question marks. Keeping Ansah helps qualm the pressure to find a premier edge rusher this season. While there is still long term question marks at the position, they could likely still be hit in the draft multiple times. The NFL is still a passing league, so there is heightened value for those who can disrupt opposing quarterbacks.
Ansah had a very up and down 2017 season and even back into 2016 a bit. He has been fighting the injury bug, which has really limited his production these past two seasons. However, Ansah has still flashed elite end production and play in spurts. Most of his best plays came towards the end of the 2017 season where he was at his healthiest. The tag makes sense considering Ansah’s age (28 years old), recent injury history, and lack of production. The Lions must believe in his physical tools though.
The Lions are in a way, giving him a tryout year for a long term deal. If he can stay healthy and give them elite production, it may be enough to convince Lions general manager Bob Quinn to extend him to a long term deal. But, if he continues to struggle with injury or lack of production it will likely be his last season in Detroit.
Why The Decision To Tag Ziggy Was The Right One
As discussed previously, the Lions have the cap space to sign him this year without many repercussions. They will still have enough money to go after free agent targets like Josh Sitton and Anthony Hitchens, to build up other positions of need heading into the draft like interior offensive line, both defensive line positions, running back, and linebacker.
Another component to this was the availability of a replacement. The draft only has two top tier defensive ends and both could very well be gone by the time Detroit picks at 20. Free Agency in 2018 was mediocre at best at the position. Ansah is easily better than anyone they would find in either area. That does not mean the Lions are done at the position. While the top end is limited, there are some project defensive ends on day 2 like Marcus Davenport that could help the long-term outlook at the position.
After today's franchise tag of Ansah, look for the Lions to spend on good players at cheaper positions of need and gamble on second or third tier free agents to fill the high priced needs. For example, top tier NT, 3rd tier CB or Edge to buy draft picks time to develop.
— Ash Thompson (@a5hcrack) February 28, 2018
Ultimately, the Lions do lose $17.5m this season for free agency. But, they did retain a starter quality veteran at arguably the most important position on the defense, when no readily available replacement was there. The Lions still have the money to build depth through free agency and through the NFL draft. If Ansah does not work out this season, the Lions can move on from him with no penalty to the cap in the 2019 off-season, likely with a better chance to replace that talent at defensive end.