The Buccaneers need to upgrade their pass rush in a big way. Free agency is one way to do that. Today, we spotlight defensive end Ezekiel Ansah.
In 2017, the Buccaneers had the worst pass rush in the entire league. Tampa Bay absolutely has to overhaul its defensive line. Chris Baker has already been cut and there is some speculation that Robert Ayers could follow. Regardless, what the team has up front right now won’t cut it in 2018. One big-time target in free agency is Ezekiel Ansah.
Ezekiel Ansah’s Career
Ansah was drafted fifth overall in 2013 by the Detroit Lions. He has been in the Motor City since, putting up some impressive numbers off the edge. In five seasons, he has 44 sacks and 10 forced fumbles. He burst onto the scene as a rookie in 2013, finishing the season with eight sacks. 2015 was his best year, as he racked up fourteen and a half sacks and four forced fumbles. Most recently, he came through with 12 sacks for the Lions in 2017.
Injuries have slowed the BYU product since 2015 and he is about to turn 29 in May. But it’s clear that he has some left, as he had six sacks over the Lions’ final two games in 2017. Considering its need for pass rush help, Detroit could choose to put a franchise tag on him in the next couple of weeks. If that doesn’t happen, “Ziggy” will be one of the hottest names on the market.
Why the Buccaneers Need Him
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It’s extremely obvious, but we can get into it anyway. The Bucs had the worst pass rush in the league last year. They haven’t had a player finish with double-digit sacks since Simeon Rice did it in 2005. Rice himself, at age 43, said last season that he could come back and help Tampa Bay. The Bucs’ pass rush was so bad that people legitimately felt like Rice could be just as good, if not an upgrade, from what they had out there every week. This defense needs edge rushers more than anything else, which is why Ansah has to be an option.
If general manager Jason Licht goes through the 2018 offseason without finding some pass rush help, he might as well start packing his bags. There is heavy pressure on him to make some good moves in the next couple of months to make the Bucs into a contender. The draft could be an option, but it can’t be the only answer. Bradley Chubb is the top end in the draft, but he likely won’t be around by the time Tampa Bay picks at seven. In recent mock drafts, LSU’s Arden Key slips into the second round, so he could be an intriguing target there for the Bucs. But Licht has to make a true effort to grab some guys in free agency. Ansah needs to be a target, even if the cost could be high.
What Will Ansah Cost?
Ansah is coming off his rookie contract with Detroit. Spotrac projects a four-year, $53 million contract for him this offseason, coming out to about $13.2 million per year. That’s a high price, sure, but it’s a need that the Bucs absolutely have to fill. They are in a very good position with the salary cap, especially after cutting Doug Martin and Chris Baker. Tampa Bay has the money right now, but has to be careful about how much Ansah is asking for. They have other needs to address, meaning they can’t let one guy approaching his 30s impact their ability to make other moves.
Will it Happen?
My guess would be no, but it’s a possibility. The Lions may very well put a franchise tag on Ansah. Even if they don’t, another team could emerge with a better offer. The Bucs will definitely be in the mix, but other options could present themselves once teams go through the process of cutting cap. Former Buc Michael Bennett could be available if Seattle decides to release him to cut salary. The point is, Tampa Bay should be looking into a backup plan or two if things don’t work out with option one. Ansah will be pursued heavily and it might be difficult to lure him to Tampa if a proven contender is in the mix for his services.
Make sure to keep following along with us as we dive into more potential free agent targets for the Bucs all the way up until legal tampering begins on March 12.