While Detroit Lions fans are still waiting to hear if the team will designated Ezekiel Ansah with the franchise tag, a few key players are apparently heading that way, and both directly affect the Lions.
First, it appears Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell is going nowhere. According to a report from NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport the Bell and the Steelers are expected to be in intense negotiations, and if the two sides can’t come up with a deal before the franchise deadline, they will use the tag to extend their time to negotiate.
“If they are not able to do a deal, then I am told they will tag Le’Veon Bell and then keep working toward a deal,” Rapoport said. “But there is reason to believe from both sides that this is something that they’re optimistic will be able to get done.”
It was always a long-shot for the Lions to get a chance at Le’Veon Bell, but not it appears there’s no shot at all. Bell will almost certainly be in Pittsburgh next year, and that makes the running back market more scarce in free agency. Detroit will still likely have options at running back, like Carlos Hyde, Isaiah Crowell or Jeremy Hill, but obviously none come with the pedigree of Bell. However, they will come much cheaper.
It also appears the Dallas Cowboys will tag defensive end Demarcus Lawrence, as expected. This was first reported by David Moore of the Dallas Morning News:
Cowboys will not place franchise tag on DeMarcus Lawrence tomorrow as that window opens but will do so by March 6 w/ understanding the goal is to reach a long-term deal. Both sides have until July 16 to make that happen.— David Moore (@DavidMooreDMN) February 19, 2018
As noted by Moore, the Cowboys won’t do it immediately—likely because teams don’t have the exact franchise tag numbers yet, and won’t until the NFL sets the salary cap for 2018. However, with Lawrence essentially off the market, that makes Ezekiel Ansah even more valuable in the free agency pool.
The edge rusher market was already very thin, so with demand always high and supply low, Ansah could be looking at a mega-deal—despite the high risk—should Detroit let him hit free agency. This puts the pressure on Detroit to either place the franchise tag on Ansah or get a deal done before the deadline.
At this point, there have been no indications or rumors as to what the Lions are going to do, but most experts agree that tagging Ansah is the right thing to do. We’ll see if Bob Quinn agrees in the next couple weeks.