The Seahawks didn’t take long to make good on coach Pete Carroll’s proclamation that they would continue to try to add to their pass rush in the wake of last week’s trade of Frank Clark, getting a reported visit Monday from former Detroit Lions defensive end Ezekiel “Ziggy” Ansah.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Ansah was in Seattle less than 48 hours after the end of the 2019 NFL draft, when Carroll said in response to a question about the team’s pass rush that “we’re not done.”
“There is work that we are engaged in,” Carroll said. “You’ll see in time.”
If healthy, Ansah would potentially be a big step toward replacing the production lost with the departure of Clark, who had 13 sacks for the Seahawks last season, the most of any Seattle player since 2007.
Ansah has 48 sacks in 80 games in a career that dates to 2013, all with Detroit, including a high of 14.5 in 2015 and 12 in 2017.
He was made a franchise-tag player last year by Detroit but then played in just seven games, though making four sacks, before his season ended due to a shoulder injury that required surgery.
The hesitancy of teams about the status of Ansah’s shoulder has certainly been a significant factor into why he is still available.
But he visited the Ravens last week and NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported last Monday that Ansah should be ready for the start of the season. Specifically, Rapoport stated that Ansah was examined by “expert Dr. Neal ElAttrache on Monday. Source said the reviews were positive, his shoulder is structurally sound & he should be cleared by mid-August. The key is getting strength back in his shoulder.”
The Seahawks will undoubtedly spend part of Ansah’s visit examining the shoulder and making their own determination.
Ansah also will be 30 in May, so teams will have to assess if he can still reclaim the form of his 2015 and 2017 seasons. But based on his history, Ansah is pretty much the best pass rusher available and the Seahawks may be willing to take a shot, presuming they can get him at a deal much less than the $17.1 million they would have paid Clark on his franchise tag and that Ansah made last season.
Ansah has played in two playoff games, one coming against the Seahawks in a wild-card contest after the 2016 season in which he had two sacks.
He also had two sacks and a forced fumble in a game against the Seahawks in 2015 at CenturyLink Field (he did not play against Seattle last season).
Because Ansah is an unrestricted free agent, his signing would factor into the compensatory pick formula for 2020. Seattle currently is on track to get four, and general manager John Schneider has said maxing out the comp picks was a priority in free agency this season.
However, since Seattle was able to turn its four 2019 picks into 11 over the weekend, it may feel a little better about potentially losing one of its 2020 comp picks if need be. Signings from May 7 and on will not count against the formula so the Seahawks — or any team wanting Ansah — could just wait until then to make the signing. But if they can’t wait, at this point they may feel it worth it to lose a pick.
Nick Korte of OvertheCap.com calculated that as long as Seattle signed Ansah for less than “about $8 million” per year then the Seahawks wouldn’t lose the third- or fourth-round picks they appear to have coming in 2020 and instead would lose a sixth- or seventh-rounder.
The Seahawks drafted defensive end L.J. Collier of TCU in the first round on Thursday but he is expected to play the team’s five-technique end spot — or where Michael Bennett played in past seasons and where Quinton Jefferson was primary starter a year ago — rather than the rush end or LEO position.
Ansah would project as a more direct replacement for Clark playing right defensive end.
The Seahawks also are hoping for progress from the likes of 2018 draft picks Rasheem Green and Jacob Martin to help out the pass rush. But the pursuit of Ansah makes clear they are not done adding to that spot.
The Seahawks in March also brought in former Green Bay Packer Nick Perry for a visit. Like Ansah, he sat out much of last season with an injury, playing just nine games before going on IR with a knee sprain.
Perry was later released by Green Bay and because of that would not factor into the comp pick formula. Perry played for one season under Carroll at USC.