Pete Carroll was right: The Seahawks weren’t done.
As became widely expected in recent days, Seattle has agreed to a one-year contract with free-agent pass rusher Ziggy Ansah.
The deal, first reported Wednesday evening by NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, is expected to be finalized Thursday. It includes incentive clauses for the six-year veteran who turns 30 this month.
The contract also includes $5.5 million guaranteed for 2019, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported.
The incentive bonuses could be worth an additional $8 million, Schefter said.
That is likely why Ansah agreed to sign with Seattle after also visiting Buffalo and Baltimore.
The Seahawks, Bills and Ravens have been waiting until after May 7 to sign Ansah, the most-accomplished free agent still available two months after the market opened. Unrestricted free agents signed after May 7 do not count against a team’s allotment of compensatory draft choices in 2020; free agents signed before May 7 do.
The Seahawks are protecting the maximum four comp picks they are expected next year for their net loss of free agents from this year. They had no comp picks this year, one of the reasons they had to make a flurry of draft trades late last month to get from an NFL-low four picks to 11.
Seattle did not pick an edge pass rusher in the draft, days after trading top sack man Frank Clark to Kansas City during an impasse in contract negotiations. First-round pick L.J. Collier is a pass rusher. But Carroll and just about everyone else with the Seahawks have termed the defensive end from TCU as “heavy handed.” That and Carroll’s comparing Collier’s game to that of former Seahawks Pro Bowl sack man Michael Bennett show Collier is more of a power pass rusher inside.
That left the faster, off-the-edge Ansah as Seattle’s top priority to sign.
Carroll all but said Ansah’s name when asked after the draft about addressing his team’s pass-rush need that remained.
“We’re very involved in what is coming up next,” the coach said of post-May 7 free agency. “We’re not done. We have work to do. We’re excited about what’s coming up, and you guys will see, in time.”
That time is now.
Ansah had 48 sacks in 80 games with Detroit, including 12 sacks two years ago. He’s the most attractive free agent pass rusher still available, two months after the market opened. According to Sheil Kapadia of The Athletic, Ansah had a sack or QB hit on 10.4 percent of his pass-rush chances in the 2017 and ‘18 seasons. That was the highest rate of any free agent in this year’s class.
Why was he available? The Lions gave him the franchise tag in 2018 and paid him $17.1 million dollars. Then he had shoulder injuries and just four sacks while playing only seven games last season. He had shoulder surgery that ended his 2018 season. He hasn’t played a full season since his Pro Bowl one with 14 1/2 sacks for Detroit in 2015. He hasn’t played even 50 percent of his team’s snaps for a season since then. Getting older and more injured is the way to be set free in the NFL.
Some around the league believe Ansah won’t be able to return to the field until mid-August, which would be after preseason games begin, or later. That would put his availability for the start of the regular season Sept. 8 in question.
The Seahawks obviously believe he will be rushing off the edge for them when it matters this year.
He may not be the only veteran pass rusher Seattle adds this month.
The Seahawks had $25.1 million in space under their salary cap for this year before agreeing to this deal for Ansah, according to overthecap.com. The $17 million they saved by trading Clark instead of giving him their franchise tag for 2019 has given Seattle the opportunity to buy more than one edge rusher on short-term deals.
The Seahawks hosted Shane Ray, the Denver Broncos’ former first-round pick. He’s also an unrestricted free agent, after Denver declined to pick up its fifth-year contract option on him for 2019. He’s had three wrist surgeries and missed much of last year avoiding a fourth and rehabilitating the wrist instead.
Nick Perry, 29, is an available rush linebacker. He had 18 sacks in a 26-game span for Green Bay from 2016 to ‘17. Perry has played in only 11 games the last two seasons. A wrist injury and surgery ended his 2018 season in early November. Rather than have him cost more than $14 million against their salary cap this year the Packers released their first-round pick from 2012.