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Detroit Lions place franchise tag on Ezekiel Ansah

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The Detroit Lions are making sure Ezekiel Ansah stays with the team for 2018.

The Lions franchise tagged Ansah on Tuesday in a move that will pay him $17.5 million for 2018 once he signs his tender, according to NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport.

Ansah proved to be one of the NFL's best edge rushers in 2017, finishing with 12.0 sacks, 44 total tackles (39 solo), one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. No player had more sacks than Ansah in the second half of 2017 (he tied Chandler Jones with eight), and he finished the year with back-to-back three-sack games.

Ansah's late-season heroics helped propel him to a No. 5 ranking by Chris Wesseling and Gregg Rosenthal on NFL.com's Top 101 Free Agents of 2018.

Although Ansah's on-field numbers are impressive, the 28-year-old's struggles with injuries over the last two seasons didn't make him a slam dunk to return to Detroit. Still, it would have been strange if the Lions let the 6-foot-5, 276-pound pass rushing terror test free agency after being one of only two players to record double-digit sacks in two of the last three seasons. With hardly any other options available, it's a sensible move by general manager Bob Quinn.

The franchise tag lets the Lions keep one of the NFL's best defensive ends without committing to him long term -- and they have plenty of salary-cap space (roughly $44 million) to pay the expensive tender. Ansah gives new head coach Matt Patricia a fine building block to construct the Lions' defense as he sees fit.

The Lions, who last used the franchise tag in 2012 on Cliff Avril, have until July 16 to sign Ansah to a long-term contract. He joins Miami Dolphins wide receiver Jarvis Landry as the only two players to be tagged so far this offseason. The franchise tag designation window closes March 6.

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