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Detroit Lions 2017 roster review: Ezekiel Ansah is the Lions’ biggest decision in free agency

After a slow start, Ansah’s strong finish means the Lions have a tough decision to make.

Green Bay Packers v Detroit Lions Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images

We continue our 2017 Detroit Lions roster review. Over the course of the next couple months we will review each player that ended the season under contract, check out their role in 2017 and see where they may be headed in 2018.

Today, we discuss defensive end Ezekiel Ansah.

Ezekiel Ansah

Expectations before 2017

Early on, expectations for Ansah were sky-high, presuming he would have a big bounce-back season after a shockingly bad 2016 season that saw him miss three games with an ankle injury.

But those expectations quickly turned to concern when Ansah found himself heading to the PUP list in late July. This would lead to Ansah missing the remainder of camp and the entire preseason slate of games. When Ansah was cleared the week of practice leading into the season opener against the Cardinals, nobody knew what to think.

Actual role in 2017

2017 stats: 14 games: 44 tackles, 12.0 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery
PFF Grade: 80.1 (40th of 105 edge defenders)

In the early going, Ansah looked like a guy that had just come off the PUP the week of the first game. Despite eating Ereck Flowers’ lunch in New York on a Monday night, Ansah was pretty absent for much of the season. At one point, he managed to grab three sacks in a ten game span.

Injuries also bit Ansah again. He found himself on the Lions practice injury report for the first 12 weeks of the season. This caused him to miss games against the Browns and the Lions’ first meeting with the Bears.

However, when Ansah came off the injury list for good, his play started to improve drastically. Ansah didn’t appear on the injury report for three of the final five games of the year, and in that time, he notched 24 tackles and 7.0 sacks—as opposed to the 20 tackles and 5.0 sacks in his other nine game appearances.

Outlook for 2017

Contract status: Unrestricted free agent

This is where things get interesting for the Lions. There are two schools of thought you can take here. The first one is that Ansah finally turned up the heat because he knew his contract was up and all he cares about is money. If you’re in that first school, drop out.

The second is that Ansah finally got healthy after a long stretch and it showed what he’s truly capable of. You can say that the three sacks against Green Bay don’t mean anything, but the reality is that they do. They all matter at the end of the day.

So the Lions have to ask themselves if the juice is worth the squeeze. If you can keep Ansah healthy, he’s can produce like we’re accustomed to seeing. But how much risk are you incurring by judging a player’s five weeks of health after nearly two years of injury-riddled football?

Take that into account with the fact that Ansah is 30 years old and you’ll find yourself wondering if he’s worth a lucrative long-term deal (or a franchise tag). We shall find out soon enough.

Previously: DE Dwight Freeney, LB Tahir Whitehead

Poll

What would you do with Ezekiel Ansah in 2018?

This poll is closed

  • 8%
    Let him go
    (84 votes)
  • 22%
    Franchise tag him (around $17-18 million for 1 year)
    (218 votes)
  • 11%
    Sign to a long-term deal
    (107 votes)
  • 56%
    Offer small contract (~2 years, $20 million), let him go if he passes
    (544 votes)
  • 1%
    Other
    (17 votes)
970 votes total Vote Now