What should Lions do about extending Ezekiel Ansah, Golden Tate

Every Saturday, we answer some of your questions for our weekly Detroit Lions mailbag. To ask a question for a future mailbag, use the hashtag #LionsMailbag on Twitter or email me at michael.rothstein@espn.com.

Now, on to this week’s questions.

Joe, that seems to be the way things are trending. It might not be the second round, either. Could be the first round. Could be the third round. But based on how things have been going in free agency, it’s pretty clear Detroit is going to find what the team hopes is its running back of the future through the draft. All of the signs of that have been there in free agency, from the re-signing of Zach Zenner to signing veteran LeGarrette Blount to a one-year deal late Friday night. Both are on short-term deals. Both could play a role. Neither is a complete game-breaker, something the Lions are still searching for. So, yeah, running back seems to be a spot that is going to be hit on early in the draft.

Brandon, this is a really good question. Here’s the pattern I’ve noticed. As far as player acquisition, the Lions are going to make maybe one or two big signings per year in areas of need (Marvin Jones Jr. in 2016, T.J. Lang and Rick Wagner in 2017) as long as there’s someone who fits what the Lions are looking for. Otherwise, Detroit is going to be looking for players who offer versatility (you’ve seen that with Detroit’s signings thus far, as both Christian Jones and Devon Kennard can play multiple linebacker spots and Kenny Wiggins can play multiple offensive-line positions) and special-teams value. The Lions also have shown they won’t jump into a market for a player just because the player is a big-name player. That has been pretty consistent.

Doug, I don’t necessarily agree with your premise. In my five years covering the Lions, the bigger-name free agents Detroit has brought in have, on the whole, been productive. Reggie Bush had a 1,000-yard season before his body started to break down. Golden Tate has turned into a Top 15 NFL receiver and made a Pro Bowl. Marvin Jones Jr. just had a 1,000-yard season. Glover Quin, while not the biggest name when he signed, turned into the leader of the defense. That’s a pretty good hit rate on free agents. Even last year’s big-name haul of Lang and Wagner did decently when they were healthy, and the Lions are hoping for a bigger return on investment this season. So free agency hasn’t been the issue here. I would also say in my time covering the Lions they have never gone too crazy with free agents. They’ve struggled in the draft (particularly under Martin Mayhew) and that has been the bigger problem than free-agent acquisition. Detroit has been, on the whole, pretty good there.

Robert, thanks for the question. There is confidence in Michael Roberts, but the cutting of Eric Ebron had more to do with the money he was going to be owed ($8.25 million) and his long-term fit with the franchise. That said, I have to believe the Lions made the move to open up that cap space for a reason. It’s just not clear what that reason is yet based on the transactions Detroit has made. Ebron, to me, was a player the Lions shouldn’t have moved on from unless they knew they had a better option coming in. Based on who is left in free agency, those options don’t seem out there anymore. The other possibility is Detroit is altering how it operates its offense and the role Ebron played -- as a potential mismatch receiving tight end -- might not be as useful in the offense in 2018. But with Jim Bob Cooter and a lot of the offensive staff returning, that doesn’t seem likely either. It’s definitely a question for Bob Quinn and Matt Patricia the next time they are available.

Michael, I would never say never, but at this point I think there’s at least a reasonable chance Ezekiel Ansah plays out the tag and then the Lions and Ansah go from there. If I’m Detroit, I’m still majorly concerned about Ansah’s ability to stay healthy in the long-term before I gave him a big contract. A one-year franchise-tag deal when the pass-rusher market is weak and the draft isn’t great -- yeah, it makes sense to keep Ansah around. But I would need to see Ansah have a season fully (or mostly) healthy before I gave him a big-time contract. How Detroit handles the draft (and specifically if-and-when it targets pass-rushers) could tell you how the Lions really feel about getting a long-term deal done with Ansah.

Jeffrey, this will be something to monitor over the summer. They got a deal done for Quin in training camp, and the guess here is if the Lions choose to extend Tate, it’ll happen in a similar time frame like it did for Darius Slay and Quin (Matthew Stafford was a different situation). The question on Tate is this: He turns 30 this year and takes a lot of hits. That said, he’s reliable (hasn’t missed a game since joining the Lions) and consistent (at least 90 catches every year and three of four seasons over 1,000 yards). So it would make sense, as long as the money works out, to bring him back.