With their former Pro Bowl defensive end , Ziggy Ansah, becoming an unrestricted free agent, the Detroit Lions are at a crossroads.
As any fan of the Detroit Lions knows, we don’t get a lot of superstars and Pro Bowlers on this team. We usually only have three or four guys on the roster famous enough to sell jerseys with their names on them, let alone guys who have made the Pro Bowl.
So when Detroit finally does get a player with superstar potential, it’s hard for the Lions to let go of him. But sometimes, these stars get too expensive, and their value decreases tenfold.
This appears to be the case with defensive end Ezekiel Ansah, as while the man is a former Pro Bowler and one of the most popular Lions at the moment, it may be time for the Cardiac Cats to move on from him.
What to do with Ziggy is potentially going to be general manager Bob Quinn’s toughest decision to make this offseason. Ansah is finally finished with his rookie contract and is currently an unrestricted free agent, meaning that Quinn either has to sign him to a hefty contract or let him walk and take his business elsewhere.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love Ansah, as his incredible mix of speed and size makes him seem inhuman. And he’s fun to watch every game. Ansah has now had multiple seasons with double-digit sacks, has appeared on the NFL’s top 100 players list, and has proven he can contribute in the playoffs. Ziggy is a great player to have on the defense when he’s healthy.
But the key phrase in that last paragraph was “when he’s healthy,” because that is something Ansah has never been very good at.
Let’s do some math here. Ansah just finished his fifth season and has played in two playoff games. This means the maximum amount of games that he could have played in that time frame is 87 NFL games.
Of those 87 games, Ansah has been listed as hurt (meaning anywhere from probable, questionable, doubtful or completely out) in 43 (!!!) games. That’s almost half the games he could have possibly played in, which means statistically he’s likely to be hurt every other game, which is scary to think about.
It’s not an exaggeration when I say that Ansah has literally sustained an injury to almost every part of his body. Since 2013, he has dealt with a concussion and injuries to his abdomen, ankles, knees, shoulder, toes, elbow, back, and hamstring. Even the most optimistic Lions fan has to think that he is becoming damaged goods at this point.
In the last two seasons, Ansah has been listed on the official Lions injury report 25 of a 32 weeks, meaning he was hurt more than 78 percent of the time. This is another scary thought to think about when dealing with a player who relies mostly on body strength and off-the-ball speed, two things that haven’t been in great shape as of late.
Injuries have been a bigger concern for more and more players than ever before, especially this past season. But any team should be able to trust that a starter can stay healthy for more than half the season, especially when said starter is the backbone of the defensive line.
Consistency has also been a huge issue with Ansah. Even though he did have 12 sacks this past season, half of them came in the last two weeks in the season, playing against two teams who were eliminated from playoff contention prior to playing the Lions.
Injuries have been a part of that, as Ansah hasn’t really been at 100 percent health for a full season his entire career, as he hasn’t able to put together 8 sacks or more for 2 seasons in a row.
Quinn has a hard decision to make this offseason, as its pretty hard to sign a guy as injury-prone and inconsistent as Ansah to a massive extension.
This upcoming season, the Lions expect to see pass rusher Kerry Hyder return from his Achilles injury, and he seems to be more motivated then ever. And with guys like defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson as proof, Quinn has proven to be able to draft quality defensive linemen that can be Lions for a long time.
So the elephant in the room has to addressed: Do the Lions truly need Ziggy Ansah to be successful? The short answer is no.
Taking the best player off an already-mediocre unit would be a hard pill to swallow. But if the Lions can get 80% of Ansah’s production from Hyder, Robinson, Anthony Zettel and whoever the Lions draft in the defensive line for half of Ansah’s price, that seems like too good of a deal to pass up, right?
Ezekiel Ansah has been one of the best players on this team for a while now, and I’d hate to see him go. But Bob Quinn will have to think long and hard before re-signing an injury-prone, inconsistent defensive end to a massive amount of money.