The Detroit Lions named Ezekiel Ansah, their star defensive end, as the team’s franchise player for 2018 this week.
Ansah, who is 6-foot-6 and 275 pounds, dealt with injuries the last two seasons. However, he was still able to play 27 games of the 32 the Lions played. During that span Ansah recorded 79 tackles as well as 14 sacks, with 12 of the 14 sacks during the 2017 season, and six of the 12 during the last two games of the season.
Ansah, who is 28, told reporters late during the 2017 season that he was dealing with a great deal during the entire year. Throughout the 2017, he said was battling injuries to his back, shoulder and ankle, rarely taking part in practice in full pads and nearly every week appeared on the injury report of the Lions.
He recently said that he is confident he will be able to return to the form he had in 2015, when he was equally productive and consistent on a weekly basis that helped him to earn a berth in the Pro Bowl.
In 2017, defensive ends given the franchise tag earned $16.9 million, and that total is expected to increase for the 2018 season to an estimated $17.5 million.
At any time, the defensive end can sign his franchise tender, which fully guarantees his salary and places all of it on the salary cap for the current year. He and the Lions have until July 16 to reach an agreement to a multiyear contract extension.
The Lions drafted Ansah No. 5 during the 2013 draft following his college football career with the BYU Cougars and the talented defensive end immediately started to become one of the biggest impact players in Detroit’s defensive formation of 4-3 as a pass rusher.
During his rookie season, Ansah recorded 32 tackles along with eight quarterback sacks then followed that in 2014 with 49 tackles to go along with 7.5 quarterback sacks. In 2015, Ansah enjoyed his breakout season with 47 tackles and 14.5 quarterback sacks, which helped him to earn honors as second-team All-Pro from the AP.
Detroit finished the 2017 season at 9-7 four games behind the first place Minnesota Vikings. Defensively the Lions gave up an average of 23.5 points per game, which was the most in the NFC North.