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What the Seahawks would be getting if they signed Ezekiel Ansah

Detroit Lions v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images

When it comes to the Seattle Seahawks and free agency, after 10 years of John Schneider and Pete Carroll, I feel like I have a decent idea of what to expect each March. That’s why as I looked ahead from last year to to last week, there was only one name I kept circling back to. In fact, he was the only name I really kept bringing up because he made so much sense.

Ezekiel Ansah.

On Monday, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that wouldn’t you know it, Ansah is in Seattle visiting with the Seahawks.

Why did I target Ansah above all others? Because Carroll and Schneider tend to only go after two kinds of free agents:

- Low-key ones

- High-end ones at low value

Mike Iupati kind of fits in with the second category, though at this stage of his career he’s far more in the low-key set. Jason Myers is a kicker and therefore belongs in his own category. But what Seattle does not tend to go after is the free agent that Ansah was a year ago: a franchise tag recipient of the Detroit Lions who would have cost any team draft picks and tens of millions of dollars to extend, just as the Kansas City Chiefs did with Frank Clark after acquiring him from the Seahawks.

As you can clearly see, Carroll and Schneider are looking to expend the expensive and obtain the overlooked. The 2019 Ansah is not completely overlooked — that would be hard to do when you’re a former top-5 pick whose had 12+ sacks in each of the last odd-numbered years — because we’ve been talking about him for months, but he did manage to squeeze through all of March and April without being signed; teams want to take the gamble on Ansah being healthy next season but they don’t want to lose a draft pick over it through the compensatory pick rules.

That changes in a week and the Seahawks were an obvious franchise to woo him for his services. Ansah is 30 but I can’t imagine Schneider and Carroll care about that: they want him on a one or two-year deal, not a five or six-year pact. Were Ansah 26, then he likely would not even be a target of Seattle’s, but he’s turning 30 in a month and they’re looking for a defensive end to help bridge them from Cliff Avril/Michael Bennett to Frank Clark to L.J. Collier/Rasheem Green/whoever is next.

He also has rare talent that made him the fifth overall selection in 2013. Other 2013 first round picks that the Seahawks have employed: Luke Joeckel, Dion Jordan, Barkevious Mingo, D.J. Fluker, and Sheldon Richardson. That’s five of the top 13 picks that year. Carroll has always placed a high value on rare talent, he just goes two ways with it: every so often they’ve spent a lot of money and/or draft picks on young players in this category (Percy Harvin, Jimmy Graham, Richardson) but they also pick these guys up when their chips are kinda down (Brandon Marshall, Mychal Kendricks, Jahri Evans).

Ansah was hurt and had two sacks over 13 games in 2016, bounced back for 12 sacks in 2017, then played on the franchise tag in 2018 but missed nine games and finished with four sacks. He has been a prime candidate for a one-year contract that helps him increase his value for one more deal in 2020. Calais Campbell signed a four-year, $60 million deal when he was 31. Everson Griffen signed a similar extension when he was 30. Brandon Graham signed a three-year, $40 million contract this year at 31.

So for Ansah, he could play out this season with some team, rack up double-digit sacks, stay healthy, and probably convince a GM to give him $40 million in a year. But he could also sign for $10 million, get hurt, and that’s the risk you take with Ziggy Ansah. I’ve long suspected that it’s a risk the Seahawks were going to explore — and once they traded Clark, it became even more clear that the team was going to spend big in the post-compensatory pick market — and now they seem to be only one step away, if they choose to go down that road.

For more information on Ansah, I spoke to Hamza at Pride of Detroit, SB Nation’s Detroit Lions blog. These were questions I posed to him last week because as I’ve said, I expected this. And when you get so many things wrong, you celebrate something you might have gotten right!

What are the odds that Ezekiel Ansah just re-signs with the Lions?

I think the door has just about closed on Ansah’s return to the Lions. Trey Flowers’ massive deal filled the hole at EDGE and Matt Patricia likes to play an on-ball linebacker at the other EDGE position, something Ansah has never done in his tenure with the Lions. The fact that the Lions have filled the hole combined with the burden of fan expectations from a former first-rounder tell me that that ship has sailed.

Would you be happy for the Lions to re-sign Ezekiel Ansah or is it time to move on, assuming that he’s still paid $7 million+ next season?

I think $7million+ next season is a good price for some team to pay Ansah, especially if it’s incentive-laden, but not for the Lions. The Lions already penciled in their backup defensive end when they signed Romeo Okwara to a three-year extension this offseason. Okwara proved his worth as a situational rusher, and with Flowers playing as the primary EDGE Ansah would be in that role with that kind of contract.

Where on the field does Ansah fit best?

Ansah doesn’t have the same versatility that some of the NFL’s most prominent rushers have. He is made for a 4-3 defensive end role, and in his first four seasons that’s all he played. His lack of deployment in other roles under Matt Patricia’s new scheme may speak to his not being a fit in any other role, but then again he wasn’t healthy for long enough to say for sure. For the Seahawks, a healthy Ansah would be the perfect replacement following Frank Clark’s departure.

How bad are his injury concerns? Do you expect them to ever be behind him for a notable period of time?

His injury concerns worry me not because of severity but because of the duration. Ansah has shown for the last two years that he can often play in spite of his shoulder injury, but on the flipside he has also shown that the injury is keeping him a long way from being himself. Ansah simply isn’t productive when he’s dealing with the shoulder injury and the fact that we haven’t seen a healthy, productive Ansah in at least two whole seasons says it all. I think in the future he’d be lucky to every string together back to back healthy seasons.

And one more note from Hamza...

Just an extra tidbit regarding the type of player Ansah is when healthy, since everyone seems to have forgotten that: I really believe he has the ability to be a top 3-5 defensive end in the league. He’s a team player and a huge effort guy. When a running back would break free for a 70+ yard run against the Lions, you’d see the defense chasing them down with safeties, corners, and... Ziggy Ansah. He’s a guy fans can root for and while I fear his best days are behind him, I really hope he can return to his peak form once again.