The franchise tag is a tool many organizations use to keep star players on the roster while working out a long-term deal. A decision was made: the Detroit Lions franchise tagged Ziggy Ansah earlier this week.
There has been some debate though about the reasoning behind this. Some believe it is to buy more time to agree to a long-term contract in the ballpark of Jason Pierre-Paul’s contract from last summer. Others question whether it is another year for Ansah to prove his worth.
Ansah’s production has been up and down throughout his career, which begs the question, “Is he worth big-time-edge-rusher money?”
Through five seasons, Ansah has tallied 44 sacks, a shade under nine per season. In 2015, he had his best season (on paper) with 14.5 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, and 2 recoveries. He also made the Pro Bowl in 2015. This showed great promise to Lions fans, as they believed they had the next great defensive star after Ndamukong Suh bolted for South Beach.
Unfortunately, Ziggy followed up 2015 with just two sacks over 13 played games in 2016. However, in 2017, he got to the quarterback 12 times, good enough to put him in the top 10 (8th) on the season sack leaders list. Twelve sacks sounds like a lot and a great season, however, he recorded three separate 3-sack games (NYG, CIN and GB). Therefore, only three sacks in the other 13 games combined. That does not scream production and certainly does not call for a big-time contract.
Beyond the Stats
There is more to football than numbers on a sheet of paper (on a website seems more appropriate in today’s world I guess). Having said that, when watching the tape and evaluating Ansah’s production, General Manager Bob Quinn did not see the inconsistency that his game-by-game stats showed.
Quinn referenced that the opponent’s offensive game plan was to double Ansah and take away his play making. It is the role of any great defensive lineman to be able to occupy two blockers. Get double teamed or make the play, that’s the code great defensive linemen live by.
Injuries ended Haloti Ngata’s season, which altered Ansah’s role in the defense. According to Quinn, he played well as an edge-setting run defender and his ability to command a double team allowed others to make big plays. The beneficiaries of those double teams were Anthony Zettel and A’Shawn Robinson.
It will be interesting to see if the Lions decide to give him his long-term contract or if they do in fact use this season as a $17 million tryout. Ziggy is often dubbed as injury prone, a title he is not all that deserving of. Does he get hurt? Sure, but who doesn’t in the NFL? He has only missed seven games in his five seasons. That sounds like just the type of toughness the city of Detroit loves and needs.
It will be interesting to see how he fits into Coach Patricia’s defense. Perhaps we will see a change from defensive end. I could see him with his hand off the ground and an edge-rusher in 3-4 style of defense. No matter what happens, Lions fans will be hoping to see a dominant play maker again.