Evan Rothstein

NFC North Notes: Lions, Vikings, Packers

The Lions should use the franchise tag on Ziggy Ansah, Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press argues. Ansah’s injury history is troubling, but he is the Lions’ top pass rusher and the team cannot risk losing him to free agency, in Birkett’s opinion. The projected ~$17.5MM tag for defensive ends is not cheap, but it would give the Lions several months to hammer out a long-term deal with the 28-year-old (29 in May).

Over the last two seasons, Ansah has spent 25 of a possible 32 weeks on the injury report, but he has only missed five regular season games. Playing through the pain, Ansah graded out as just the 40th ranked edge defender in the NFL last year, per Pro Football Focus.

While the Lions mull the Ansah decision, here’s more from the NFC North:

  • The Vikings are one of six teams that could change the course of the offseason, Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com writes. Minnesota has three starting-caliber quarterbacks heading towards free agency in Case Keenum, Sam Bradford, and Teddy Bridgewater and no one knows which, if any, they will retain. If they decide to move forward with Keenum, it remains to be seen whether the Vikings will use the franchise tag, the transition tag, or extend him. The Vikings also have lots of cap room to work with (just over $49MM, eighth highest in the NFL, per Over The Cap) and they should have plenty to still use even if they extend the likes of Anthony Barr, Stefon Diggs, and Trae Waynes. That number will also increase if defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd is unable to play.
  • With Kirk Cousins likely to top Jimmy Garoppolo‘s record-setting quarterback contract in the coming weeks, the Packers should move quickly to extend their own signal-caller in Aaron Rodgers, argues Pete Dougherty of PackersNews.com. Green Bay likely doesn’t want to let Rodgers get too close to an expiring contact (he has two years remaining at present), so the club needs to hammer out a long-term deal in the near future. In fact, the Packers could press Rodgers to ink a new pact before free agency begins next month. Not only would that timeline allow Green Bay to sign Rodgers before Cousins resets the quarterback market, but it would give the team a long-term view of its salary cap situation.
  • The Lions have hired former NFLer Hank Fraley as their new assistant offensive line coach, the club announced today. Fraley, who spent 11 years in the league as an interior offensive lineman, has previously coached for the Vikings and at San Diego State and UCLA in the collegiate ranks. In Detroit, he’ll work under Jeff Davidson, who was recently hired as the team’s OL coach. The Lions also announced the retention of Evan Rothstein, who will now serve as assistant to the head coach/research and analysis.