LIONS INSIDER

TWENTYMAN: Why tagging Ansah makes sense

Posted Feb 27, 2018

The Lions helped strengthen a position of need by placing the franchise tag on defensive end Ziggy Ansah.

Detroit Lions general manager Bob Quinn made the decision Tuesday to use the team’s first franchise tag designation in six years on veteran pass rusher Ziggy Ansah.

The tag will keep Ansah in Detroit through 2018, though he and the Lions could certainly still work out a long-term deal before the start of training camp.

In addition to providing instant impact as a pass rusher, Ansah is also the Lions' best edge setter and one of their best run-stopping defensive linemen.

Ansah had 12 sacks this past season, despite dealing with several injuries. His 12 were more than 30 percent of the team total.

Nine of those sacks came in three contests against the New York Giants, Green Bay Packers and Cincinnati Bengals. Some have criticized Ansah's overall total for the year because of that fact, but every sack is an impact play, no matter when and who it comes against. The Lions won two of those three games in which Ansah recorded three sacks.

Ansah is just two years removed from a 14.5-sack season that saw him reach the Pro Bowl for the first time in his career. That was also the last time he was relatively healthy and played an entire 16-game season. Ansah’s been plagued by injuries the last two years, which have zapped some of his effectiveness.

For that reason, the team’s use of the franchise tag makes sense. 

If Ansah, 28, plays the 2018 season on the franchise tag and doesn’t sign a longer deal, this season essentially becomes a “show me” year for him and the Lions. Can he stay healthy through 16 games? Can he return to his 2015 form? 

If so, he sets himself up nicely for free agency next offseason, and the Lions receive the benefit of having one of the league’s most gifted edge rushers back at his best for Matt Patricia’s first season as head coach. 

With Ansah now in place for 2018, the Lions still have a few more questions at the position.

Former sixth-round pick Anthony Zettel was the team’s second-leading sacker last season with 6.5. He looks like a promising up and comer, but he’s still developing.

Kerry Hyder Jr., who led the Lions in 2016 with eight sacks, missed all of last season due to an Achilles injury. He’s expected to be back, but will he be the same player?

Veteran reserve defensive end Cornelius Washington had 2.5 sacks this past season in his first year in Detroit. He’s more of a power player and edge setter than a pure pass rusher. 

The Lions could still choose to add to the position via free agency or the NFL Draft, but tagging Ansah gives them a proven producer at a position that’s still a need even with Ansah on board for 2018.