clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Just Say No: 4 defensive ends the Lions should avoid in free agency

The Lions should Just Say No to these guys

Detroit Lions v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images

It’s that time of the year again, Lions fans. The Super Bowl is over, all the coaches are hired and players are starting to get cut. If you’re not watching America’s latest rendition of the XFL a year before America’s next rendition of the XFL, then the next football related thing you’re looking forward to is free agency.

That brings us to what we’re doing here today. The fifth year of Just Say No. If you’re not familiar with how it works, I scour the internet looking for tweets and Facebook posts that look like this.

I then take these suggestions and explain why the Lions should do everything they can to avoid these players. Sometimes I’m right. Sometimes, like in the case of Frank Gore, I’m wrong. But still, someone has to crush these dreams. It might as well be me.

This year I’m doing things differently. I used to just grab four players and put them in a piece. This year I’m basing it off the Lions’ needs. With four weeks to go, I’ll be addressing these needs in terms of importance. This week, I’m going with the top need: defensive end. Let’s jump into it.

Ezekiel Ansah

Let’s just go ahead and start here and rip it off like a band-aid. When the Lions took Ansah fifth overall in the 2013 draft, so many of us were wondering why the Lions used such a high pick on a guy that had so little experience.

The former BYU standout then spent three years showing us why. He capped it all off with a Pro Bowl in 2015 that saw him notch 14.5 sacks and 34 quarterback hits. We were on a gravy train with biscuit wheels and Ansah was the conductor.

Then it all went downhill. Ansah suddenly became a frequent name on the injury list, and in 2018 he suffered a shoulder injury during Week 1 that just seemed like wasn’t going to ever heal. He’s missed a chunk of games in the each of the last three seasons.

The Lions franchise tagged Ansah after he had a really strong finish to the 2017 season, but it looks like that finish was merely an illusion. Ansah now finds himself hitting the market again, and the Lions should do the right thing and walk away.

While part of me thinks Ansah is likely done playing football, there is a team out there that doesn’t pay attention to how bad things have gotten and will play him way more money than he’s worth. The Lions should not be that team.

Muhammad Wilkerson

I can see some of the intrigue here. I really can. If the Lions brought in Wilkerson to rotate around, I wouldn’t hate it with all my heart. But Wilkerson’s days of being a great pass rusher have been over since 2016.

Just like Ansah, Wilkerson had a masterful 2015 season. He snatched 12 sacks and 28 quarterback hits on the road to his one and only career Pro Bowl. He then took a big dip in productivity the next season. Then in 2017 he took another dip and the Jets decided to cut bait and release Wilkerson right after the season.

In his one year with the Packers, Wilkerson only lasted three games before he was put on IR after a bad ankle injury.

Much like Ansah, Wilkerson is a guy that some team will overpay for, but the Lions shouldn’t be that team. Again, though, if the Lions can get a deal here for Wilkerson to flex in and out, I say go for it.

Michael Johnson

If it were 2012, I’d drive to the airport to pick Michael up myself. But it’s not. It’s 2019, and I would suddenly forget how to get to the airport if Bob Quinn made a mistake like this.

Michael was a great player for the Bengals in the early part of his career. But he is pretty far away from that part of his career at this point. Johnson just turned 32 last week. If you’ve read these pieces then you know how much I’ve banged the drum about not signing players that are over 30, but that’s not the only reason to avoid Johnson.

Michael has been pretty bad lately. In 2018, that bad got even worse. He started 15 games and only recorded two quarterback hits and just 0.5 sacks. That’s pretty bad. Bad enough to get a 57.6 grade from PFF.

Michael has reached that part of his career where I wouldn’t be shocked to see him announce his retirement any day now. I can’t imagine any team is going to be looking to sign him to a long-term contract. At this point, he feels like one of the veteran guys that gets brought on the team for a shot during camp. The Lions should just go ahead and avoid him.

Bruce Irvin

It wasn’t long ago when the Raiders cut Irvin midseason and Lions fans were all about signing him. Well now that he’s hitting free agency, there’s a good chance that Lions fans will be all about him again.

Where do I start on Irvin? My first thing isn’t a gripe, it’s just an observation. Doesn’t Bruce Irvin sound like someone that would have been a terror in the 90s? Like you could imagine a world where there’s a poster of Bruce Irvin wearing Zubaz pants and standing on a pirate ship with Lyle Alzado. Nevermind that.

While Bruce isn’t old enough for that, he’s certainly old enough for the Lions to take a pass on. Bruce will be 32 this coming season. The next gripe is the one that should be obvious. The Raiders just cut this guy midseason. You could make the argument that Jon Gruden switched faces with Castor Troy and that’s why he’s lost his ever-loving mind and started getting rid of talented players, but that’s not the case with Irvin.

Irvin didn’t sit on the market long. The Falcons jumped on him and made him a starter immediately. He didn’t fare any better there. In the end, Irvin graded out at just 59.0 on PFF, which is average on their scale. The Lions don’t need average right now. They need a player that can take over. Irvin is not that guy.

NEW: Join Pride of Detroit Direct

Jeremy Reisman will drop into your inbox twice a week to provide exclusive, in-depth reporting and insights from Ford Field. Subscribe to go deeper into Lions fandom, and join us on our path to win the Super Bowl.