On the first full day of a new phase of NFL free agency — the day when signings no longer factor into the formula for 2020 compensatory draft picks — Seattle struck the first big blow, agreeing to terms Wednesday night on a 1-year contract with defensive end Ezekiel “Ziggy” Ansah.
A league source confirmed the news to the Seattle Times with ESPN and the NFL Network also having reported that a player regarded as maybe the best pass rusher still available as a free agent will play next season for the Seahawks. The NFL Network reported Ansah will fly to Seattle Thursday and officially sign his contract with the Seahawks.
The signing gives Seattle a proven replacement for the traded Frank Clark, with one big caveat — Ansah is coming off of shoulder surgery that ended his 2018 season with Detroit after just seven games.
But the Seahawks were able to meet with Ansah last month and look at the shoulder and appear to feel confident he will be ready for the 2019 season. Reports have stated Ansah expects to be fully cleared by mid-August.
Ansah, who will turn 30 on May 29, has 48 sacks in six NFL seasons, with a high of 14 in 2015.
The 6-6, 270-pound native of Accra, Ghana had just four in seven games last season before having shoulder surgery and it has been reported he may not be fully cleared to return until mid-August. But as Pro Football Focus detailed, he was one of the most-effective overall rushers in the NFL when he did play in 2018.
As PFF stated: “Counting only the weeks that Ziggy Ansah played in last season (weeks 1, 9-14), he ranked first in pass-rush productivity among all edge defenders, totaling 20 pressures (4 sacks, 3 hits, 13 hurries) on just 101 pass-rush snaps.’’
Ansah played three seasons at BYU and then was taken as the fifth overall pick of the 2013 draft by Detroit, for whom he then played the next six seasons.
Ansah played the 2018 season on a franchise tag paying him $17.4 million. But after the injury-shortened 2018 campaign the Lions let Ansah try free agency.
He was one of a handful of big-name players who did not sign earlier in part with teams such as the Seahawks hoarding their projected 2020 comp picks. Seattle appears set to get the maximum four comp picks in 2020 for the losses via free agency of players such as Earl Thomas and Justin Coleman.
But the deadline when signings factor into the formula passed on Tuesday, meaning any signing from here on it will not impact the four picks Seattle hopes to get.
Seattle coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider each said following the draft last month that the Seahawks would continue to pursue defensive linemen and particularly pass rushers to help fill the void created by the trade of Clark to the Chiefs, for which Seattle got a first-round pick in 2019 that it used to eventually end up with 11 picks in the 2019 draft, as well as a 2020 second-rounder.
Carroll told reporters following the draft when asked about the team’s pass rush that “we’re not done’’ and visits to Seattle by the likes of Ansah, Nick Perry (formerly of the Packers) and Shane Ray (formerly of Denver) made it clear the Seahawks are pursuing veterans to try to replace Clark.
Seattle has about $26 million in available cap space at the moment, but if players such as Doug Baldwin and Kam Chancellor are removed from the roster sooner than later, that total will only increase, meaning the Seahawks have more than enough flexibility to make a few signings.