Ezekiel Ansah

Top Edge Rushers Still Available

Putting pressure on the opposing quarterback is critical to a team’s success in today’s NFL, and there are a number of players still languishing on the free agent market who are capable of doing just that. While the pandemic has understandably made teams leery of authorizing big-money contracts, some of the available talent can be had for a fairly minimal commitment, and it would not be surprising to see them come off the board as we get closer (hopefully) to training camp.

So let’s take a look at the best of the unsigned pass rushers.

  1. Jadeveon Clowney: Not many players have been in the news more than Clowney this offseason. By now, everyone knows that Clowney was seeking a multi-year deal with an AAV of at least $20MM when free agency opened, but he has had to modify his demands in a big way. The Browns are believed to have two offers on the table: a one-year pact worth $15MM, and a multi-year contract worth around $12MM/year. Cleveland does not seem to be high on Clowney’s list of preferred destinations, but the club does have the makings of a postseason contender. It will be interesting to see if another team tries to top the Browns’ proposals to land a potentially game-changing talent.
  2. Everson Griffen: Back in May, Griffen was rated as our No. 3 best available free agent, and he would be the No. 2 talent on that list today now that Cam Newton has signed with the Patriots. Shortly after the list was published, we heard that the Cardinals may be interested, but nothing has transpired on the Griffen front in the last six weeks. The 32-year-old showed that he still has plenty left in the tank after registering eight sacks in 2019, and the fact that he is still unsigned may indicate that his contract demands are too high right now.
  3. Ezekiel Ansah: The Seahawks paired Clowney with Ansah in 2019 with the hopes of creating a true two-headed pass-rushing monster. That did not exactly work out as planned, as Clowney managed just three sacks and Ansah posted 2.5 while playing in 11 games. Ansah just couldn’t regain the form that he displayed during his best years with the Lions, and it certainly seems as if he does not have another double-digit sack campaign in him. Still, he is another year removed from the shoulder injury that marred his 2018 season and delayed his 2019 debut, so he will surely get a chance to be a part of someone’s pass rush rotation in 2020.
  4. Michael Bennett: Bennett wants to play in 2020, but thus far, it doesn’t sound as if there has been much interest in his services. The three-time Pro Bowler enjoyed a nine-sack effort with the Eagles in 2018, but he was traded to the Patriots in March 2019 and clashed with New England brass. In October, the Pats shipped him to the Cowboys, for whom he posted four sacks in nine games. In total, he collected 6.5 sacks last year while playing fewer snaps than he is accustomed to. He may very well start to attract more interest once camp gets underway.
  5. Markus Golden: No one other than the incumbent Giants has expressed interest in Golden since free agency began, and it seems like the 29-year-old will be back with Big Blue in 2020. The Giants put the rarely-used UFA tender on him, which means that he will only be eligible to play for New York if he does not sign another offer prior to the start of training camp (presently scheduled for July 28). Though Golden posted 10 sacks in 2019, he did so off of just 26 pressures, which teams likely see as an unsustainable conversion rate. The UFA tender would pay Golden $4.125MM this season.
  6. Jabaal Sheard: Sheard has never quite lived up to his potential as a game-changing pass rusher, and the 8.5 sacks he totaled in his rookie season in 2011 remain a career high. But he has averaged over five sacks per season over the course of a mostly-durable nine-year career, and he still looks the part of a starting DE. Fresh off a reasonably productive three-year stint with the Colts, Sheard has not yet been connected to any club this offseason.
  7. Clay Matthews: Matthews opened the 2019 campaign with his hair on fire, posting six sacks in the first five games of the season. It appeared that the two-year, $16.75MM contract the Rams gave to the longtime Packer in March 2019 was going to pay off in a big way, but Matthews suffered a broken jaw in October that derailed his season. He picked up two more sacks the rest of the way, and LA cut ties with him earlier this year. There have been no public reports of interest in the 34-year-old, but he could be a valuable veteran presence if deployed in the right way.
  8. Vinny Curry: Curry has always been a situational pass rusher. Even when he started all 16 regular-season games for the Eagles in 2017, he played in just over half of the club’s defensive snaps. His one year in Tampa Bay in 2018 was not a smashing success, but he returned to Philadelphia in 2019 to reprise his role as a player who can come in on passing downs and who represents a legitimate threat to get to the quarterback. The Jets were said to be interested in him in March, and Gang Green could still use pass rushing help, but the two sides have not yet come together on an agreement.
  9. Terrell Suggs: Suggs’ career accomplishments stand head and shoulders above those of most everyone else on this list. The former Defensive Rookie of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, and seven-time Pro Bowler has 139 career sacks to his credit, but he finally started to slow down in 2018, his final year in Baltimore, and he looked the part of an aging defender during his 13-game stint with the Cardinals in 2019. Arizona cut him late last season and he was scooped up by the Chiefs, which allowed him to collect his second Super Bowl ring. It’s unclear if T-Sizzle has any interest in continuing his playing career, but he has nothing left to prove.
  10. Cameron Wake: Another player that would be higher on this list if not for his age, Wake was released by the Titans in March. The 38-year-old has said he wants to keep playing, but after a terrific run with the Dolphins from 2009-18, Wake’s one year with Tennessee did not go according to plan. He registered just two sacks in nine games and missed the final stretch of the season with a back injury. He might well be healthy now, but we are unaware of any teams with interest at this point.

Injury Notes: 9/20/19

Here are the latest significant injury-related notes from around the league:

  • Marshall Newhouse, whom the Patriots signed last week, will serve as the club’s starting left tackle until Isaiah Wynn returns, per Doug Kyed of NESN.com (via Twitter).
  • As expected, Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson will not play in Week 3, but the club is still optimistic about the availability of Alshon Jeffery and Dallas Goedert, as Eliot Shorr-Parks of 94WIP.com tweets.
  • Buccaneers LB Devin White will not play this weekend, per Greg Auman of The Athletic (Twitter link).
  • Giants wide receiver Sterling Shepard is out of the concussion protocol and will play in Week 3 per Jordan Raanan of ESPN.com (via PFT). Rookie QB Daniel Jones will be making his first start, so Shepard’s presence will be especially helpful.
  • The Seahawks are getting closer to full strength, as both WR David Moore and defensive end Ezekiel Ansah are expected to play in Week 3, per Curtis Crabtree of Pro Football Talk. We had already heard that Ansah was likely to make his Seattle debut this weekend, but Moore’s return is earlier than expected, even after we learned at the end of August that he would avoid IR.
  • Top Jets defenders C.J. Mosley and Quinnen Williams are not expected to play this week, as Rich Cimini of ESPN.com tweets. The Week 3 outlook is also bleak for WR Demaryius Thomas and LB Jordan Jenkins.
  • Tyler Kroft‘s Bills debut may be put on hold for awhile longer. Kroft was a full participant in Wednesday’s practice, but as Josh Alper of Pro Football Talk writes, Buffalo HC Sean McDermott told reporters that Kroft injured his ankle in Thursday’s practice and will undergo further evaluation.

Injury Notes: Foles, Ansah, Badgley

Nick Foles, who remains out indefinitely due to a broken left clavicle bone that was suffered last week against the Chiefs, had surgery this past Monday. During the procedure, Foles had plate and screws utilized while fixing the clavicle to ensure long-term health, and a source said it was a clean, straight-forward break, according to NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport.

In preparation for his return, Foles will have multiple scans before setting foot on the field, with all parties wary of a re-break. Assuming everything heals properly, he’ll begin practicing the week before the Houston game in Week 9, then have the bye, then be back with the Jaguars Week 11.

Filling in for Foles is rookie Gardner Minshaw, who was named the league’s Rookie of the Week for his admirable performance against the Chiefs last week. Minshaw will remain the starter for the foreseeable future.

Lets’ check out some more injury notes from around the NFL:

Ziggy Ansah Returns To Practice

Despite earlier reports suggesting that he could miss at least a month of the regular season, we heard a few weeks ago that new Seahawks defensive end Ziggy Ansah was expected to be ready for Week 1.

And that timeline still seems accurate, as Brady Henderson of ESPN.com writes that Ansah practiced for the first time with his Seattle teammates today. Henderson says that Ansah, who had been limited to training on side fields, was seen taking part in warmups and positional drills. The longtime Lion is trying to rebuild strength in his surgically-repaired shoulder and to recover from a more recent groin injury.

Since Seattle likes to have players returning from long, injury-related absences to practice for at least two weeks prior to suiting up for game action, it’s significant that Ansah returned to the practice field 12 days before the team’s September 8 opener against Cincinnati. Head coach Pete Carroll said, “[j]ust to get the newness out of him and have a couple days to get back to practice again, I think will be really important to him … He has worked really hard on the outside, he’s been doing all kinds of drills and movement stuff and throwing heavy things and butting into stuff and all that to get ready and we feel very secure that he’s ready to go now.”

Ansah will not play in the team’s preseason finale, but his presence should be a boost to a Seattle pass rush that lost Frank Clark and will be without Jarran Reed for the first six games of the season.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Seahawks Expect Ziggy Ansah For Week 1

The Seahawks’ defensive line has taken some hits this offseason. After the Frank Clark trade, Jarran Reed encountered a six-game suspension and first-round pick L.J. Collier suffered an ankle sprain that’s expected to sideline him a while.

Ziggy Ansah, however, tentatively stands to provide much-needed assistance. The seventh-year defensive end avoided the PUP list and has a good chance of being in Seattle’s starting lineup by Week 1, per Pete Carroll.

I’m counting on it that he’s going to make it,” the 10th-year Seahawks coach said during an interview with KJR Radio (via Pro Football Talk) of Ansah returning in time for the regular season. “I don’t see any reason that he wouldn’t. He’s doing great, has made progress throughout. I’m not really concerned about the preseason games for him. I just want to get him to game time if we can.”

Carroll hopes Ansah will be able to practice fully in the coming weeks. The longtime Lions defensive end has spent the past several months recovering from shoulder surgery. Should Ansah return in time for the Seahawks’ opener against the Bengals, he will be by far the most accomplished defensive lineman in the team’s lineup.

Ansah, 30, signed with the Seahawks shortly after the draft. Injuries, however, have limited the former top-five pick for much of his career. Most recently, he missed nine games for the 2018 Lions. He registered 12 sacks in 2017, prompting the Lions to use their 2018 franchise tag on him. Ansah has two seasons of at least 12 QB drops, having recorded 14.5 in a Pro Bowl 2015 campaign.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Ziggy Ansah Avoids PUP List

Although Seahawks fans are surely frustrated by the surprising and controversial six-game suspension for DT Jarran Reed, they will be happy to hear that new defensive end Ezekiel Ansah will avoid the PUP list and will open training camp on the active roster. Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network passes along the good news (via Twitter), though he cautions that Ansah will be limited early as he continues to rebuild strength in his shoulder.

But as Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times notes, the fact that Ansah will not start training camp on the PUP list indicates that his recovery has gone at least as well as expected thus far. Although reports from May indicated that Ansah could miss games, today’s news suggests he could be ready for Week 1.

Health, of course, has been an issue for the former Lions standout. The 30-year-old has 48 career sacks to his credit, including 14.5 from his Pro Bowl campaign in 2015. He also notched 12 sacks in 2017, but the years sandwiched in between have been filled with injuries and disappointment. Last year, Ansah registered four sacks in seven games after the Lions hit him with the pricey franchise tag.

In case you missed it, the Seahawks bolstered their D-line by signing Earl Mitchell earlier today.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

West Notes: 49ers, N. Bosa, Wagner, Benson

The 49ers have not had a high draft pick hold out of training camp since the new CBA and its rookie wage scale were instituted in 2011. However, the club’s top two 2019 draft choices, No. 2 overall pick Nick Bosa and No. 36 overall pick Deebo Samuel, have yet to sign their rookie deals. Cam Inman of the Mercury News believes that both players will be under contract by the time camp opens on Friday, but it seems that the club’s history, rather than any specific information on Bosa or Samuel, is the primary reason for that belief.

Now for more from the league’s west divisions:

  • In the same piece linked above, Inman says that new 49ers acquisitions Kwon Alexander and Jason Verrett — along with every other member of the roster — should be cleared for action when camp opens, though San Francisco may ease them back into action. Inman also suggests that the backup QB competition between Nick Mullens and C.J. Beathard will be a close one.
  • This doesn’t come as much of a surprise given earlier reports that new Seahawks defensive end Ezekiel Ansah could miss at least the first month of the regular season, but Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times writes that Ansah is expected to open training camp on the PUP list. It remains to be seen if Ansah will, in fact, miss any regular season action, though Condotta says there should be more clarity on that front this week.
  • Condotta also believes that Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner will get an extension before the season begins, and it could happen as soon as this week.
  • We have taken several looks at the Broncos‘ WR corps over the past week or so, and UDFA Trinity Benson‘s name keeps cropping up. As Mike Klis of 9News.com writes, Benson took reps with the first-team offense Saturday and caught several passes from Joe Flacco. New head coach Vic Fangio said he will continue to put his unproven players on the field with the presumptive starters, and it seems that Benson has acquitted himself nicely thus far. The fact that he served as a kickoff and punt returner in college will only help his cause.

Contract Details: Howard, Ansah, Calhoun

A look at the details on recent deals from around the NFL:

Seahawks’ Ziggy Ansah To Miss Games?

New Seahawks’ defensive end Ezekiel Ansah still is recovering from shoulder surgery that is expected to keep him out of training camp or longer, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (on Twitter) hears. Furthermore, some league sources believe Ansah could miss the first month of this season, if not more. 

The Seahawks inked Ansah to a deal late Wednesday night, allowing them to skirt any possible compensatory pick formula ramifications. On the surface, it was a brilliant way to bolster an edge rush that can use a lift following the Frank Clark trade. However, the Ansah signing won’t do them a whole lot of good if he’s not on the field.

Health, of course, has been an issue for the former Lions standout. The soon-to-be 30-year-old has 48 career sacks to his credit, including 14.5 from his Pro Bowl campaign in 2015. He also notched 12 sacks in 2017, but the years sandwiched in between have been filled with injuries and disappointment. Last year, Ansah registered just four sacks in seven games after the Lions hit him with the pricey franchise tag.

The Bills were also in the mix for Ansah, but the Seahawks won out. With Seattle, Ansah will join first-round pick L.J. Collier in a new-look edge unit.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Seahawks To Sign Ziggy Ansah

The Seahawks won out for Ziggy Ansah. The former Lions defensive end will head west on a one-year deal, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports (on Twitter).

Ansah will sign his deal on Thursday, Rapoport tweets. This will take a key free agent off the board, a day after UFA signings became disconnected from 2020 compensatory picks.

It appeared the Seahawks and Bills were vying for Ansah, with Brandon Beane remarking hours ago his team was still negotiating with the former Pro Bowl pass rusher. But the Seahawks, who had a much bigger immediate need at defensive end, will make the addition. Ansah will join first-round pick L.J. Collier in a new-look Seattle edge corps.

The Seahawks’ Frank Clark trade left them vulnerable on the edge. They used the No. 29 overall pick on Collier, who maxed out at six sacks in his best TCU season, but now have a former top-five pick in the fold. Ansah has struggled with injuries, his most recent shoulder malady set to keep him out until perhaps midway through training camp, but has been productive when healthy. The soon-to-be 30-year-old edge presence has 48 career sacks, his 14.5 in 2015 sending him to the Pro Bowl and the 12 in 2017 inducing the Lions to place their franchise tag on him last year.

Free agent edges Nick Perry and Shane Ray also visited Seattle, but the team will go with Ansah. Perry and Ray join several starter- or sub-package-level pass rushers still available. Derrick Morgan, Michael Johnson, Andre Branch, Pernell McPhee, Dion Jordan and others remain on the market.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.