Ezekiel Ansah

IR/Activation Notes: Njoku, 49ers, Rams, Giants

David Njoku is back. The Browns announced this morning that they’ve activated the tight end from the injured reserve.

The 24-year-old suffered a knee injury during Cleveland’s season opener, and he was subsequently placed on IR. He was designated for return earlier this week, and coach Kevin Stefanski indicated that Njoku would see the field sooner than later. The tight end had three receptions for 50 yards and one touchdown in Week 1, surpassing some of the totals he compiled during his injury-plagued 2019 campaign.

Njoku requested a trade back in July, only to rescind it in early August. While the former first-rounder sits behind free agent addition Austin Hooper on the depth chart (and has to battle the likes of Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry, and Kareem Hunt for targets), Njoku should still see a role in the offense going forward.

Let’s check out some more IR/activation notes from around the NFL…

  • The 49ers‘ injury woes continue, as Matt Barrows of The Athletic reports (via Twitter) that defensive end Ezekiel Ansah (biceps) and cornerback K’Waun Williams (knee/hip) are heading to the IR. Ansah joined San Francisco in late September, and he’s proceeded to appear in two games. He spent the 2019 campaign with the Seahawks, finishing with 18 tackles, two forced fumbles, and 2.5 sacks. Williams has spent the past three-plus seasons with the 49ers, and he’s started two of his four appearances this season. Fortunately, there is some good news out of San Francisco, as head coach Kyle Shanahan told reporters that quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo will start Sunday against the Dolphins (via ESPN’s Adam Schefter on Twitter). Garoppolo has missed the past two-plus games, with the team mostly turning to Nick Mullens in his stead.
  • 2020 third-round pick Terrell Lewis could make his debut for the Rams this weekend. Jourdan Rodrigue of The Athletic tweets that the rookie linebacker has been activated off the IR. Following a stint on the reserve/COVID-19 list, Lewis underwent a knee scope just before the start of the season. The former Alabama standout could immediately see some time on the edge for the Rams.
  • The Giants placed linebacker Oshane Ximines on IR with a shoulder injury, reports SNY’s Ralph Vacchiano (via Twitter). The 2019 third-rounder saw time in all 16 games as a rookie, finishing with 4.5 sacks. He started three of the Giants first four games in 2020, collecting five tackles.

49ers Fear Ziggy Ansah Has Torn Biceps

The 49ers lost to the Eagles on Sunday Night Football to fall to 2-2 and the basement of the NFC West, and the bad news doesn’t stop there. San Francisco fears pass-rusher Ziggy Ansah, who left the game with an arm injury, suffered a torn biceps, a source told Ian Rapoport of NFL Network (Twitter link).

An MRI is need to confirm but if that’s the case, then Ansah is likely done for the year. It’s a tough blow to a 49ers defensive line that has been decimated by injuries. The defensive front was the engine behind their Super Bowl run last year, and the unit is now completely unrecognizable. All-Pro DeForest Buckner was traded to the Colts this offseason, and Nick Bosa and Solomon Thomas are both done for the season after suffering torn ACLs.

Ansah was brought in as a splash signing to help replace those guys, and now it looks like he’ll be shutdown as well. Ansah and the 49ers flirted for a while with a couple meetings taking place before the two sides finally agreed to a $3MM deal a couple of weeks ago. Picked fifth overall by Detroit in 2013, he had 12 sacks in 2017 but his past couple of seasons have been derailed by injuries.

He appeared in 11 games with the Seahawks last year, racking up only 2.5 sacks. He’ll be 32 in May and given his frequent recent health issues, will likely have a quiet market this offseason. He’ll almost certainly have to settle for a one-year prove it deal like he did this time.

With Dee Ford also on injured reserve, the 49ers are running out of pass-rushers. At risk of taking a backseat to the Seahawks and Rams in the division, it wouldn’t be surprising to see GM John Lynch make another move for a veteran in the coming weeks to try to give defensive coordinator Robert Saleh some reinforcements.

49ers Agree To Deal With DE Ziggy Ansah

We heard earlier this morning that Ziggy Ansah was flying to meet with the 49ers with a signing likely in the cards, and now it appears official. San Francisco is finalizing a one-year deal with the veteran pass-rusher, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com tweets. Kyle Shanahan later confirmed the agreement at his Monday press conference. The pact will be worth $3MM, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network (Twitter link).

This is the culmination of a couple rounds of flirting between the two sides, as Ansah has already met with the team multiple times recently. Fowler notes that the signing will take place as soon as Ansah clears the COVID-19 protocols. It’s a nice low-risk upside flyer for a team suddenly in need of edge help in the wake of Nick Bosa‘s injury.

Bosa, of course, went down with an ACL tear on Sunday, leaving a gaping hole along the 49ers’ defensive line. The defensive front was the engine behind last year’s Super Bowl run, and after Bosa’s injury and the trade of DeForest Buckner, the unit has now been severely depleted.

The fifth overall pick of the 2013 draft by the Lions, Ansah initially had a lot of success in Detroit. In 2015 he had 14.5 sacks, earning a second-team All-Pro selection. He had 12 more sacks in 2017 which caused the Lions to franchise-tag him, but injuries derailed his last couple of seasons.

He had a shoulder issue he could seemingly never quite get over, and had only 2.5 sacks in 11 games with Seattle last year. 31 now, Ansah is reportedly fully healthy and should have something left in the tank physically. It’ll be interesting to see how defensive coordinator Robert Saleh uses him moving forward.

49ers To Sign Ziggy Ansah?

Stop us if you’ve heard this one before. The 49ers are meeting with Ezekiel Ansah this week, according to NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport (on Twitter). Ansah previously met with the Niners twice, but left both meetings without a deal. This time, the club is much more optimistic about a deal coming together.

It sounds like Ansah will, at long last, join the Niners, pending the results of his COVID testing. The 31-year-old has also drawn interest from the Ravens and Bills, but it seems like teams have purposely waited until the end of Week 1 to get into serious talks with him. Had Ansah signed before the season opener, his deal would have been fully guaranteed for the season. Now, the talented yet injury-prone veteran can be signed without a full commitment.

For the Niners, Ansah can serve as a talented reserve behind Nick Bosa and Arik Armstead, The No. 5 overall pick of the 2013 draft, Ansah posted a double-digit sack campaign as recently as 2017. A shoulder injury marred his 2018 season and delayed his 2019 debut, but he is now another year removed from that injury. He could exhibit some of his old form in 2020, perhaps in a smaller number of snaps.

After topping the Jets 31-13 in Week 2, the Niners will turn their attention to the Giants on Sunday afternoon.

49ers To Host Ziggy Ansah For Second Time

It would seem that the 49ers are interested in former Lions and Seahawks defensive end Ziggy Ansah. The club met with Ansah last month, and as Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports, Ansah will be back in San Francisco today to undergo COVID-19 testing in advance of a workout on Tuesday (Twitter link).

Though Ansah’s salary is unlikely to be particularly large, it would not be surprising to see interest in his services pick up after Week 1 in order to prevent that salary from becoming fully guaranteed. The 49ers are trying to prevent other clubs — like the Ravens and Bills, who are reportedly interested in Ansah — from swooping in to sign the 31-year-old.

Though the 49ers have several high-profile talents that can wreak havoc off the edge, like Nick Bosa and Arik Armstead, Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle says the club is “starving” for pass rush depth (Twitter link). Ansah certainly fits the description of a high-reward, low-risk pickup that could provide a jolt to the Niners’ DE rotation.

The No. 5 overall pick of the 2013 draft, Ansah posted a double-digit sack campaign as recently as 2017. A shoulder injury marred his 2018 season and delayed his 2019 debut, but he is now another year removed from that injury, so while he may not be the sack leader in anyone’s locker room at this point, he may still be able to provide starter-caliber play.

The 49ers kick off their season against the Cardinals this afternoon and will hope that their current group of edge defenders can make life difficult for Arizona QB Kyler Murray.

Broncos Reached Out To Cameron Wake, Couldn’t Agree On Deal

The Broncos continue to seek replacements for Von Miller. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports (via Twitter) that the organization recently reached out to free agent pass rusher Cameron Wake. However, the two sides were unable to agree on a contract.

Earlier this week, Denver lost Miller to an ankle injury that will likely sideline him for the entire season. While there’s *some* optimism that the veteran linebacker could return towards the end of the campaign, that hasn’t stopped the front office from approaching free agent pass rushers. We heard the other day that the Broncos inquired on veteran edge rusher Clay Matthews. The team was informed that Matthews is “not going to play,” but agent Ryan Williams later clarified that he was “unable to come to an agreement with Denver,” and his client “remains open to playing in the NFL in 2020, provided it’s the right opportunity for him and his family”

So, the Broncos apparently turned their focus to Wake, who earned five Pro Bowl nods during his 10 seasons with the Dolphins. The veteran spent the 2019 season with the Titans, compiling four tackles, 2.5 sacks, and 11 quarterback hits in nine games. When the 38-year-old was cut by Tennessee back in March, he indicated that he wanted to play during the 2020 campaign.

Denver’s offer to Wake was well off its Matthews proposal, Mike Klis of 9News notes. The Broncos also pursued Aldon Smith before the Cowboys signed him; Klis adds the team has not contacted Terrell Suggs or Ziggy Ansah about a deal.

Assuming the Broncos don’t end up signing a linebacker who can play this weekend, the team will enter the season with some question marks at linebacker. Former first-rounder Bradley Chubb has been working his way back from a torn ACL, and the team is otherwise relying on the likes of Alexander Johnson, Josey Jewell, Malik Reed, Jeremiah Attaochu, and Mark Barron.

Bills, Ravens Monitoring Ziggy Ansah

The Bills and Ravens have free agent DE Ziggy Ansah on their radar, as Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com tweets. Ansah has sent a workout video of himself to NFL teams in an effort to show that he is fully recovered from his recent shoulder injuries.

Of course, Ansah and Jadeveon Clowney were supposed to be an edge rushing nightmare for the Seahawks last year, but things didn’t work out as planned. Clowney managed just three sacks and Ansah posted only 2.5 sacks in eleven games. Still, the potential is there – Ansah registered 12 sacks in 2017 for the Lions, and he would be a serious threat if he could regain his old form. Now another year removed from the shoulder surgery that marred his 2018 season and delayed his 2019 debut, he profiles as a potential low-risk/high-reward pickup.

The 49ers brought Ansah in for a workout earlier this month, but it’s presently unclear where things stand on that front. Buffalo and Baltimore, meanwhile, both boast strong defenses that could nonetheless benefit from another pass rusher.

The Bills bid adieu to last season’s sack leaders, Jordan Phillips and Shaq Lawson, in free agency, though they did add Iowa standout AJ Epenesa in the second round of this year’s draft. The Ravens, meanwhile, don’t have much by way of proven edge rushing depth behind Matt Judon, and while the club has been loosely connected to Clowney and Yannick Ngakoue, the price tag for either player probably puts them out of Baltimore’s range.

Ansah, 31, has one Pro Bowl to his credit, which came after a 14.5-sack campaign in 2015. The fifth overall pick of the 2013 draft appears ready to sign with a new team as soon as possible.

49ers Meet With Ziggy Ansah, Dion Jordan

The 49ers are taking a close look at two of their rival’s former defensive ends. Ziggy Ansah and Dion Jordan will meet with SF brass on Tuesday afternoon, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com and Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter links). 

[RELATED: 49ers’ DJ Reed Out For Season]

Ansah and Jadeveon Clowney were supposed to be an edge rushing nightmare for the Seahawks last year, but things didn’t work out as planned. Clowney managed just three sacks and Ansah posted only 2.5 sacks in eleven games. Still, the potential is there – Ansah registered 12 sacks in 2017 for the Lions, and he would be a serious threat if he could regain his old form. Now another year removed from shoulder surgery, he profiles as a potential low-risk/high-reward pickup.

Jordan signed with the Raiders in November after serving a 10-game suspension for a PED violation, Playing in a rotational role, the former No. 3 overall pick earned positive reviews from Jon Gruden and, at one point, seemed ticketed to join the club in Las Vegas. Instead, he could stay in the Bay Area.

Ansah and Jordan delivered mixed results for the Seahawks, but they could provide potent support behind Niners stars Arik Armstead and Nick Bosa.

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.