Ezekiel Ansah

Extra Points: Cooper, Raiders, Ansah, Lions, Firings

The trade of Amari Cooper from the Raiders to the Cowboys has been one of the most discussed stories this NFL season. The conventional wisdom had been that new coach Jon Gruden wanted him gone as he sought to stockpile more draft picks to completely rebuild the Raiders the way he wanted, but new information suggests that might not be the case. Cooper himself told Calvin Watkins of The Athletic (Twitter link) that it was Raiders owner Mark Davis who wanted him gone and not Gruden.

Cooper shares an agent with Khalil Mack, and rumors have swirled online for a while now that there may have been bad blood between Davis and Mack’s agent after the two sides were unable to work out a new deal for the defensive end. That being said, the notion that Davis is the one who wanted Cooper off the Raiders isn’t true, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, who tweets that Cooper is misinformed. It’s unclear who’s right, but it’s likely this isn’t the last we hear of this story.

Here’s more from around the league:

  • Lions defensive end Ezekiel Ansah was placed on injured reserve recently, and has likely played his last game as a Lion, according to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. Birkett writes that he “can’t see” Ansah returning to Detroit, even on a “one-year prove-it deal.” Ansah is a very talented pass-rusher, but has been unable to stay healthy the past couple of years while the Lions have paid him a ton of money. His free agency and what type of deal he’s able to land will be one of the most interesting to monitor this spring.
  • There will surely be a bunch of coaching moves on Black Monday once the regular season is over, but there have already been a bunch of moves made this season, and Field Yates of ESPN.com recapped all of the in-season firings (Twitter link). Packers head coach Mike McCarthy & associate head coach Winston Moss, Browns head coach Hue Jackson & offensive coordinator Todd Haley, Bengals defensive coordinator Teryl Austin, Jaguars offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, Vikings offensive coordinator John DeFillipo, Buccaneers defensive coordinator Mike Smith, Cardinals offensive coordinator Mike McCoy, and Lions special teams coordinator Joe Marciano have all been let go this year. We’ll know more very soon, but at least a few more head coaching jobs will be open soon, with Vance Joseph, Dirk Koetter, and Todd Bowles being the most likely candidates to be replaced.
  • In case you missed it, the Seahawks are interested in re-signing linebacker Mychal Kendricks once he serves his sentence for insider trading.

Lions Shut Down DE Ziggy Ansah

Lions defensive end Ziggy Ansah has been placed on injured reserve, according to a team announcement. Ansah has been hurt for much of the season and was forced out of Sunday’s game with a shoulder injury, so the move does not come as a surprise. 

This has been a frustrating year for the Lions and Ansah alike. In the offseason, the Lions kept Ansah from the open market by applying the expensive $17.1MM franchise tag. At the time, the Lions indicated that they were willing to discuss a long-term deal because they wanted to see if Ansah could deliver a second consecutive monster season. Unfortunately, injuries completely derailed Ansah and the Lions’ season tanked.

Ansah managed four sacks in his seven games, but he appeared in just 146 snaps on the entire year. That’s hardly the follow-up the Lions wanted after he notched 12 sacks and 44 overall tackles in 2017.

Ansah will be a fascinating case to watch in free agency. The 29-year-old (30 in May) has turned in two great seasons (2015, 2017), two good seasons (2013, 2014), and two dud seasons (2016, 2018) thus far in his career and his health moving forward is obviously a concern. The silver lining here is that his placement on IR will allow him to immediately undergo surgery for a labrum issue, meaning that he should be ready for training camp in 2019.

The veteran figures to be one of several intriguing pass rushers to hit the open market in March. Frank Clark (Seahawks), Jadeveon Clowney (Texans), Trey Flowers (Patriots), Dee Ford (Chiefs), and DeMarcus Lawrence (Cowboys) are also on course for free agency in 2019.

The Lions also placed tight end Michael Roberts (shoulder) on IR. To fill the two spots, the Lions signed tight end Jerome Cunningham and offensive lineman Leo Koloamatangi from the practice squad.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Injury Updates: Ansah, Lions, Sherman, 49ers, Michel, Patriots, Barr, Vikings

Ezekiel Ansah has missed almost the entire season with a mysterious shoulder injury. He played in the Lions’ opener against the Jets, and notched four tackles and a sack, but hasn’t played since. Detroit has been mum on what exactly is ailing Ansah, and he’s appeared close to returning a few times recently but has never suited up. He’s practice on a limited basis the past couple of weeks, but still hasn’t been ready.

This week might be different, as Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press tweets that Ansah “did more in practice Friday than I’ve seen him in recent weeks.” It seems like Ansah is ramping up his activity and has a very good chance to return tomorrow against the Seahawks. Ansah, who’s playing on a franchise tag, would provide a big boost to a suddenly resurgent Lions defense.

Here’s more on some big injuries from around the league:

  • Richard Sherman appears on track to return for the 49ers tomorrow against the Cardinals after a two game absence, but might have to miss Week 9 because of it. Sherman told Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle that he’s going to attempt to play through the injury, but might be too sore to play on short-rest in Week 9. The 49ers play on Thursday Night Football, and it doesn’t sound like Sherman thinks he’ll be able to play two games in four days.
  • The Patriots have been typically tight-lipped about Sony Michel‘s injury, but the recent word is that it isn’t too serious. That being said, Michel has been downgraded to doubtful for the team’s Monday night game against the Bills, according to Jeff Howe of The Athletic (Twitter link). If it’s true that it’s relatively minor, Michel should be able to return in Week 9.
  • The Vikings’ defense has already been pretty banged up, and they got even more bad news recently. Linebacker Anthony Barr has been ruled out, which will end his streak of 44 consecutive games started for the Vikings, according to Andrew Krammer of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. The Vikings will be considerably short-handed for their game against the Saints, and Barr’s absence will surely be felt over the middle.

Injury Updates: Patriots, Colts, Lions, Redskins

The final injury reports for Week 7 came out earlier today, and there was a lot of news. Lots of key players will be missing their team’s games, while others will be returning after extended absence. One notable rule-out was the Patriots declaring that starting right tackle Marcus Cannon would miss their game against the Bears. It’s a big loss for New England, especially in a week where they have to go up against Khalil Mack. Mack will now be lining up across from a backup tackle, and could end up making life miserable for Tom Brady.

Here are more injury updates from around the league:

  • The Colts have been the most injured team in recent memory the past few weeks, but are finally getting some good news. Star receiver T.Y. Hilton has missed the past two games with a hamstring injury, but is ready to make his return this week. Unfortunately for Indianapolis, they’ll still be without tight end Jack Doyle and receiver Ryan Grant as well as several key contributors on defense like safety Clayton Geathers and defensive tackle Denico Autry.
  • The Lions will be without running back Theo Riddick, who went down during the team’s win over the Packers. Riddick has been operating as the Lions’ third down back, and rookie Kerryon Johnson should get more run with him out of the way. On the bright side, the team looks like it could be getting back pass-rusher Ezekiel Ansah, who hasn’t played since Detroit’s Week 1 loss. Ansah is listed as questionable but practiced all three days this week.
  • The Redskins will be thin on pass-catchers, as Jamison Crowder has been ruled out for the team’s game against the Cowboys while Paul Richardson is listed as doubtful. Washington promoted Jehu Chesson from the practice squad yesterday, signaling they weren’t expecting Richardson to play. Tight end Jordan Reed should see a ton of looks as the Redskins’ receiving corp is completely depleted.

For a rundown of every team’s injury situation, you can view all 32 injury reports over at ProFootballTalk.com.

Injury Notes: Fournette, Ansah, Michel, Burkhead, Barron

Inactive lists for the late slate of games are starting to roll in, and are providing answers to some key injury questions. Perhaps the biggest mystery of the week was the status of Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette. We finally have clarity, as Fournette will officially miss Jacksonville’s Week 2 game against the Patriots with his hamstring injury according to Adam Schefter of ESPN (Twitter link).

It’s a big blow for the Jaguars who like to establish the running game and make things easy for Blake Bortles. They did get some good news however as Calais Campbell, who was a very late add to the injury report, will play. Here are more injury notes from around the league:

  • The Lions’ already weak defense will be without their best player, as Ezekiel Ansah will be sidelined with a shoulder injury per Michael Rothstein of ESPN (Twitter link). Ian Rapoport had previously tweeted Ansah was expected to play, so this is a bit of a surprise.
  • The Patriots’ backfield got some good news as both Sony Michel and Rex Burkhead will suit up per Ben Volin of The Boston Globe (Twitter link). Burkhead was cleared from the concussion protocol while Michel will make his NFL debut after missing most of the offseason with a knee injury.
  • The Rams will be without starting linebacker Mark Barron for a second straight week per ProFootballTalk (Twitter link). It’s bad news for Los Angeles as their linebackers were shredded over the middle last week by tight end Jared Cook for 180 yards.

Lions Notes: Patricia, Ansah, Martin

The Lions looked like one of the league’s worst teams on Monday night while suffering a humiliating loss to the Jets, and Mike Garafolo of NFL.com reports (via Twitter) there are already rumblings that Detroit’s veterans aren’t happy with first-year head coach Matt Patricia. The former Patriots defensive coordinator has reportedly installed rules that Lions players find cumbersome while (in the opinion on the player) over-working them during practice sessions. Ex-New England coordinators finding conflict in their first go-round sans Bill Belichick is nothing new (see: Josh McDaniels, Eric Mangini), but Patricia’s standing with his veteran players is certainly something to keep an eye on as the season progresses.

Here’s more from the Motor City:

  • Defensive end Ezekiel Ansah left Monday night’s contest with a shoulder injury, but an MRI revealed the issue isn’t serious, tweets Adam Schefter of ESPN.com, who adds Ansah is “hopeful” he can play against the 49ers in Week 2. Losing Ansah for any amount of time would be devastating for the Lions, who don’t have much depth on the edge and ranked just 22nd in adjusted sack rate a season ago. Ansah, 29, was franchise-tagged this offseason and is now earning $17.143MM for the 2018 campaign, but he’ll need to produce again this year in order to land a multi-year deal next spring. He finished the 2017 season with 12 sacks, 44 total tackles, one forced fumble, and one fumble recovery.
  • The Lions aren’t pleased with punter Sam Martin after the club allowed multiple lengthy returns against the Jets, so they’re taking a look at free agent options, per Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press (Twitter link). Ryan Santoso, an undrafted rookie free agent who spent the summer with Detroit, was in for a workout, as was veteran Ryan Quigley. Martin, for his part, ranked second-to-last in net punting average in 2017, but the Lions’ punting unit ranked in the middle of the pack, per Football Outsiders’ special teams metrics. Detroit would take on at least $1.5MM in dead money over the next two seasons if it cuts Martin.
  • In case you missed it, the Lions auditioned free agent cornerback David Amerson earlier this week in an effort to shore up a weak secondary.

No Deals For Bell, Lawrence, Ansah, Or Joyner

None of this year’s franchise tagged players agreed to extensions with their respective teams before Monday’s deadline. That means Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell, Lions defensive end Ziggy Ansah, Cowboys defensive end Demarcus Lawrence, and Rams safety Lamarcus Joyner will all play on their tags in 2018. 

Over the weekend, we heard that deals were unlikely for any of the four players. However, we’ve been surprised in the past. You may recall the 2016 franchise tag extension deadline in which Muhammad Wilkerson and the Jets agreed to a buzzer-beating deal after weeks of reports indicating that it would not happen (the Jets certainly wish it hadn’t happened now).

There was no surprise this year, so the four franchise tagged players are all entering contract seasons at the following rates:

  • Ezekiel Ansah – $17.1MM
  • DeMarcus Lawrence – $17.1MM
  • Le’Veon Bell – $14.5MM
  • Lamarcus Joyner – ~$12MM

This marks the first ever franchise tag for Ansah, Lawrence, and Joyner. For Bell, this is the second go ’round and it’s incredibly unlikely that the Steelers will consider a third tag, no matter how good he is in 2018.

Per league rules, extension talks cannot resume between the team and the tagged player until after the 2018 season has concluded.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extensions Not Expected For Ziggy Ansah, DeMarcus Lawrence

The two defensive ends among the four-man franchise tag contingent are not expected to reach long-term extension agreements with their respective teams by Monday’s deadline.

Neither Ziggy Ansah nor DeMarcus Lawrence appear to be close to finalizing a deal, with Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reporting (via Twitter) that, barring a major breakthrough in talks, the veteran edge defenders look set to play this season on the tag. Calvin Watkins of The Athletic also hears the prospect of a Lawrence/Cowboys re-up is unlikely (Twitter link).

The Cowboys and Lawrence were reported to have discussed what it would take to come together on an extension this week, but it doesn’t look like those talks were especially productive. As for Ansah, the Lions have been rumored for months to view 2018 as more of an audition season to see if he can stay healthy and thrive in Matt Patricia‘s scheme.

This will mean $17MM-plus cap numbers for both the Cowboys and Lions. The latter’s been prepared to foot this bill for a while, and the former’s payroll doesn’t look like it did at the close of free agency’s major spending period. Though Dez Bryant‘s contract has an $8MM dead-money tag this year, the Cowboys do not have a major pass-catcher expense on their cap sheet after Bryant was released and Jason Witten retired. Dallas also extended Zack Martin yet holds $14.8MM in cap space.

Detroit currently has $9MM in cap room and just three players (Matthew Stafford, Ansah and T.J. Lang) attached to eight-figure cap holds this year. The Cowboys’ cap sheet also has just three eight-figure hits (Tyron Smith, Lawrence and Sean Lee). Dallas’ cap becomes more manageable in 2019, when both Bryant and Tony Romo‘s dead-money figures are off the books.

Renting extra years of Lawrence and Ansah makes sense for both NFC teams because of the injury histories for each pass rusher. Lawrence dealt with significant back problems prior to putting a 14.5-sack season together in his contract year. Ansah experienced back and knee troubles last season, and although he still registered 12 sacks, six of those came in his final two games — after he’d to some degree shaken those maladies.

Ansah, though, may have a more pivotal season ahead considering he will be 30 by the time 2019 free agency opens. Lawrence just turned 26.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

July 16 Marks NFL’s Franchise Tag Extension Deadline

This year, the deadline for teams to reach extensions with franchise tagged players falls on July 16. If the following four players do not agree to new contracts in the coming days, they will be ticketed for free agency in 2019:

For Bell, the absence of a deal all but guarantees that he will be allowed to explore the open market next season. That’s because this is the second year in a row that Bell has been hit with the tag. He’ll make $14.544MM this season if no extension deal is reached, but a third tag would cost Pittsburgh more than $20MM. For the rest, the possibility of a second franchise tag remains, though the requisite 20% increase could prevent teams from applying the tender.

The rules of the franchise tag dictate that teams have until mid-July to hammer out an extension with players. If not, the two sides are barred from engaging in contract talks until after the season has concluded.

From 2013-2017, 16 of the league’s 33 franchise tagged players agreed to extensions before the summer deadline. This year, it’s hard to say whether deals will be reached for any of the players in question. Bell is looking for a deal that will reflect his production as a top running back and a No. 2 wide receiver. The defensive ends, Ansah and Lawrence, know that teams are willing to overpay for quality edge rushers in free agency. Joyner, meanwhile, may be content to let the Rams control his fate since he’ll either make $11MM+ this year and hit free agency, or earn $25MM through two franchise tags and reach the open market in 2020.

Then again, a serious injury could derail any member of this quartet, so there’s something to be said for financial security over monetary upside. Joyner, in particular, could be quietly eager to sign a multi-year deal after watching a dismal free agent safety market play out this offseason.

What we do know for sure is that the next 12 days will be worth monitoring.

NFC Notes: Falcons, Seahawks, Cardinals, Lions

The Falcons have had a relatively quiet offseason in terms of additions. They’ve chosen to focus instead on developing their own players and locking them up. They tied up a lot of money on last month’s long awaited Matt Ryan mega-extension. Last month it was reported that Julio Jones wanted an “adjustment” made to his contract. Ricardo Allen is also pushing for a new multi-year deal. To top it all off, GM Thomas Dimitroff recently said the team hopes to sign offensive tackle Jake Matthews to a new contract soon.

Overall, there’s a lot of deals for the Falcons to get done. But despite the long list of Falcons waiting their turn, defensive tackle Grady Jarrett appears to be “next in line” for an extension writes D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Jarrett, a fifth round pick back in 2015, is entering the final year of his rookie contract.

Jarrett made an immediate impact as a rookie, and sacked Tom Brady three times during Super Bowl LI. He started all 16 games this past season and is a key component of the Falcons’ defense, even more so now that the Falcons let Dontari Poe walk in free agency. Jarrett says he’s not worrying about a new deal and that “at the end of the day, that will work itself out.” Jarrett might not be focused on his contract, but if Ledbetter is right, he should have a new one soon.

Here’s more from around the NFC:

  • The Seahawks currently have a crowded running backs room full of well-known names. First round rookie Rashaad Penny seems like the only lock to make the team. Although it’s been speculated that one or more could be cut, Bob Condotta of The Seattle Times thinks all five of Penny, Chris Carson, Mike Davis, C.J. Prosise, and J.D. McKissic will make the team.
  • Lions star defensive end Ezekiel Ansah reportedly “dodged” questions about his contract, according to Carlos Monarrez of the Detroit Free Press. Ansah was franchise tagged back in April, and little progress has been made on a longterm deal since. Lions GM Bob Quinn seemed to hint back in March that the team wasn’t interested in locking Ansah up longterm, and would like to see him play out the year under the franchise tag and prove he can stay healthy. Given the Lions’ reluctance to give him a multi-year deal, it makes sense that Ansah had no interest in discussing his frustration’s with the media.
  • The Cardinals could bring in a veteran wide receiver to be the number two behind Larry Fitzgerald, according to Darren Urban of AZCardinals.com. Fitzgerald is entrenched as the number one receiving option, but there’s currently a wide-open competition behind him between Brice Butler, rookie second-rounder Christian Kirk, and potentially J.J. Nelson. Kirk would seem to have the most upside, but if he’s not ready for such a large role as a rookie, the Cardinals could sign a free agent during training camp Urban believes.