Ezekiel Ansah

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.

Lions’ Ezekiel Ansah Signs Franchise Tender

The Lions have officially re-signed defensive end Ezekiel Ansah. For now, Ansah is set to play out the 2018 season on a one-year deal worth more than $17MM. 

Ansah and the Lions have until July 16 to agree on a multi-year extension, per the terms of the franchise tag. From 2013-2017, 16 of the league’s 33 franchise tagged players have agreed to extensions before the summer deadline, but it’s not especially likely in Ansah’s case. In late March, Lions GM Bob Quinn hinted that he’ll take a wait-and-see approach with Ansah.

“We’re hoping he stays healthy, has a productive year and we go from there,” Quinn said.

Last year, Ansah recorded 12 sacks, 44 total tackles, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. Only seven players – Chandler Jones, Calais Campbell, Demarcus Lawrence, Everson Griffen, Cameron Jordan, Ryan Kerrigan, and Joey Bosa – brought the quarterback down behind the line more than Ansah in 2017.

Ansah’s 44 career sacks rank fifth all-time in Lions history, an impressive feat with just five NFL season under his belt. The Lions, ideally, would like to keep him in the fold in the long run, but they may be hesitant about committing major dollars to him because of his so-so 2016 performance.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Lions Unlikely To Sign Ansah To Long-Term Deal?

Some teams use the franchise tag to buy some time to negotiate with their players on a long-term deal. That doesn’t appear to be the case in Detroit with Ezekiel Ansah. Appearing on PFT Live, general manager Bob Quinn alluded to taking a wait-and-see approach with the fifth-year defensive end. 

“We’re hoping he stays healthy, has a productive year and we go from there,” Quinn said.

Quinn said it is about new head coach Matt Patricia being able to get to know Ansah through the off-season program before the team makes a decision about a long-term deal. The fact that Ansah has been inconsistent early in his career — sandwiching a pair of double-digit sack seasons in 2015 and 2017 with a two-sack campaign in 2016 — also surely factors into the decision to wait.

Though he wants Patricia to become familiar with the defensive end through the offseason program, Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio also writes Ansah isn’t likely to attend the offseason program with a long-term deal.

The 2015 Pro Bowl selection has until July 16 to sign his franchise tender, which will pay him an expected $17.14MM.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC North Notes: Packers, Lions, Vikings

Allen Robinson narrowed his potential destinations to the Bears and Packers before ultimately deciding on Chicago, as the star wideout tells Mike Kaye of First Coast News. While a number of clubs — including the Redskins, Browns, Ravens, Panthers, and incumbent Jaguars — were linked to Robinson before free agency officially opened, Green Bay was never mentioned as a suitor. The revelation is interesting on a few different levels, but chief among them is that the Packers clearly feel a need to upgrade their receiving corps. So far this offseason, Green Bay cut ties with franchise icon Jordy Nelson, but hasn’t made any additions to its wideout depth chart. Robinson, 24, eventually landed a three-year, $42MM deal from the Bears.

Here’s more from the NFC North:

  • The Lions‘ decision to release Eric Ebron was strictly a financial call, general manager Bob Quinn told reporters, including Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press (Twitter link). Ebron had been scheduled to earn a base salary of $8.25MM in 2018, and that figure would have become fully guaranteed on the first day of the league year. Indeed, Ebron’s high salary also warded off any potential trade suitors, per Quinn, while Detroit never discussed an extension that would have reduced Ebron’s upcoming cap charge (Twitter link via Justin Rogers of the Detroit News). Ebron, a first-round pick in 2014, has subsequently inked a two-year, $13MM pact with the Colts.
  • Given that he’s currently in Ghana, Lions defensive end Ezekiel Ansah has no immediate plans to sign his franchise tag, per Birkett (Twitter link). However, Ansah does eventually plan to ink the tender and has no intention of dragging out the process. When he does eventually sign, Ansah will earn a fully guaranteed $17.143MM base salary for the 2018 campaign, and will have until July to hammer out a long-term extension with Detroit. Ansah finished the 2017 season with 12 sacks, 44 total tackles, one forced fumble, and one fumble recovery.
  • The Vikings have indicated they’d like to re-sign cornerback Terence Newman, but it sound as though money will be the determining factor in any such agreement, according to Brian Murphy of the St. Paul Pioneer Press (Twitter link). While Newman will be 40 years old when the 2018 season gets underway, he was able to stay healthy for all 16 games last year. Newman, who ranked as the No. 66 CB among 119 qualifiers in 2017 (per Pro Football Focus), would reinforce a Minnesota secondary that also includes Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes, and Mackensie Alexander.
  • Despite a previous report to the contrary, the Lions are not interested in free agent defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins, tweets Birkett. Detroit has already upgraded its defensive tackle rotation by signing Sylvester Williams and Ricky Jean-Francois, but Hankins isn’t in the team’s plans.

North Notes: Bengals, Vikings, Ansah

We learned earlier today that the Steelers signed Jon Bostic to a two-year deal as a potential fill-in for Ryan Shazier, and now we’ll take a swing around a few other north division clubs:

  • Paul Dehner Jr. and Jim Owczarski of the Cincinnati Enquirer think the Bengals did very well for themselves during the first week of the new league year, and they believe the club is done with its major free agent additions/trades in 2018. One of the reasons the team was so successful is that it did not force itself into an expensive Russell Bodine contract. The market has not developed for Bodine, a four-year starter in Cincinnati, in the way that he thought it would, and he may have to settle for a modest deal. We heard earlier today that he will be making a visit to the Bills, and while the Bengals will have center options in the draft, they could bring back Bodine if his price falls far enough.
  • Yesterday, we heard that the Vikings were open to bringing back the recently-released Jarius Wright at a lesser rate, and Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press says that Wright himself would be open to rejoining Minnesota at a reduced salary. Wright said, “It’s not out of the question. But it’s the NFL. We’ll have to see what happens. But I love Minnesota. I would love to come back, so you just never know what will happen.”
  • The Broncos signed OL Billy Turner yesterday, but Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News tweets that the Vikings also had interest in Turner as a depth option. Tomasson tweets that the team might not have the funds to make a major O-line addition, though it will continue to monitor the market for potential bargains (like Turner). Any potential starter, though, would likely come through the draft.
  • The Lions recently retained Zach Zenner on a one-year deal and signed LeGarrette Blount to a one-year pact, which leads Michael Rothstein of ESPN.com to believe that the club will target an RB early in the draft.
  • In the same piece, Rothstein says he believes Ziggy Ansah will play out the 2018 season on the franchise tender and that he and Lions are not likely to reach a long-term agreement before the July deadline. Rothstein also said the team cut Eric Ebron and saved his significant salary cap charge for a reason, though it’s not clear what that is just yet. Rothstein says Ebron would not have been cut unless the team knew it had a better option coming in (although the Lions could have simply felt that Ebron’s role as a potential mismatch receiving tight end might not be as important to the offense in 2018).