The free agent market lost one of the most promising pass rushers before he could even hit the market as the Detroit Lions designated defensive end Ezekiel Ansah as their franchise player.
By doing so, the Lions will pay a premium price (an estimated $17.5 million) to make sure one of their best defensive players wouldn’t reach free agency. Detroit’s use of the franchise tag buys the team some wiggle room in negotiations for a long-term deal. The Lions have until 3 p.m. on July 16 to reach an agreement with Ansah, or the 28-year-old will play the 2018 season under the tag.
Ansah came up with 12 sacks in 14 games with Detroit in 2017 and earned an 80.2 grade from Pro Football Focus, which ranked him 40th among the site’s 106 qualifying edge defenders. Only seven players registered more sacks than Ansah in 2017, and all but one is on a lucrative long-term deal. Ansah will soon join elite company if he and the Lions can strike a deal.
Injuries are the primary thing keeping Ansah from reaching his potential. Last season, Ansah spent considerable time on the injury report. He was listed as questionable 11 weeks (knee, back, ankle) and doubtful/out twice with back issues. He’ll turn 29 in May, but those concerns could prevent him from signing the kind of big-money deal that tend to go to the game’s best pass rushers.
Considering they’ll jump into the chase for pass-rush help this offseason, the Chicago Bears could have been on the periphery of any pursuit of Ansah. However, Ansah – who has spent his entire career with his hand on the ground as a 4-3 defensive end – wasn’t much of a fit as a 3-4 defensive end or outside linebacker.