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How much will injuries impact Ezekiel Ansah in free agency?

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The 49ers have big cap money, but the injury history is concerning.

NFL: Detroit Lions at Cincinnati Bengals David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

The San Francisco 49ers need to add help at edge rusher, and one of the most intriguing options might be Detroit Lions defensive end Ezekiel Ansah. The pending free agent is coming off a 12-sack season, and given the importance of getting to the quarterback, he could find a nice pay day this offseason.

However, one has to wonder how his history of injuries will impact his case for a big contract. Ansah has never missed more than three games in a season, but an ankle injury in 2016 and a knee injury in 2017 have slowed him down to a certain extent. After a career-high 14.5 sacks in 2015, Ansah had two sacks in 2016. He had 12 this past season, but nine of them came in three games, including six in his final two games.

Those numbers show both how good he talented he is and how much the injuries can impact his play. Our friends at Pride of Detroit ranked Ansah as the team’s top free agent, but they don’t know how exactly to handle the situation.

When healthy, everyone knows what Ansah is capable of doing. There isn’t any clear way handling this situation, especially because it’s unknown if we’re ever going to see him healthy and back to his 2015 form. Ansah agreeing to any type of one-year, prove-it type deal is unlikely, so he seems like a prime candidate for the Lions to use the franchise tag on to see if he can stay off the injury report.

The franchise tag makes sense if the team wants to keep him, but is wary of the injuries. However, last year’s defensive end non-exclusive franchise tag salary was $16.9 million. It will increase to upwards of $18 million in 2018, and are the Lions ready to put down that kind of money, albeit for one year?

And if the Lions do not franchise Ansah, it will be fascinating to see how high somebody is willing to go with him. The 49ers have plenty of cap space to make this kind of splashy signing, but the injuries are concerning. Sure, it would not crush them cap-wise, but you still don’t want to be committing money to a player who will spend more time inactive than active.

If Ansah hits the open market, is he worth a big contract at this point?