RENTON — There is no longer any question as to whether the Seahawks have their Ansah at defensive end. Free-agent Ezekiel “Ziggy’’ Ansah, thought to be the best pass-rusher available, made it official Friday that he will become a Seahawk, signing a one-year contract with the team at the VMAC in Renton.
Seattle waived veteran defensive end Nate Orchard, who had signed as a free agent last month, to make room on the team’s 90-man roster.
The move came as part of a dizzying 48 hours or so for the Seahawks in which they reached agreement with Ansah on Wednesday night, signed three other players, notably cornerback Jamar Taylor, on Thursday morning, and then cut Kam Chancellor and Doug Baldwin with the failed physical designation Thursday afternoon, and then officially signed Ansah on Friday. But the Seahawks didn’t stop there, also agreeing to terms later Friday with defensive tackle Al Woods on a one-year deal reported by the NFL Network to be worth up to $2.25 million.
Ansah, who played the last six seasons with Detroit and made the Pro Bowl in 2015 when he had a career-high 14.5 sacks, signed a one-year deal reported to be worth up to $13 million, with roughly $4 million tied up in incentives, most for being on the roster and active on gameday.
Those incentives are hedges by the Seahawks against Ansah’s health — he had labrum surgery on his shoulder late last year and while the Seahawks are confident he will be ready for the opening of the regular season at least one report this week suggested there is doubt in league circles if he will be.
Ansah, who turns 30 on May 29, also has had knee, back and ankle injuries over the last few seasons and hasn’t played a full 16-game regular season since 2015.
Still, Ansah had a quickly-developing market this week once the league’s deadline passed when free agents would factor into the formula for determining compensatory picks in the 2020 draft and it’s known Buffalo was talking to him and the Ravens and Saints were also reportedly interested.
“This is a great team,’’ Ansah said in comments to the team’s official website, Seahawks.com. “The caliber of players who have been through here, they have a great coach out here, the environment, the organization, it’s just great. I’m just happy to be a part of it.”
Ansah became a free agent after playing last season on a franchise tag that paid him $17.1 million.
He became a target for the Seahawks after Seattle traded Frank Clark to the Chiefs after tagging Clark but then unable to reach agreement on a long-term contract. Seattle got a 2019 first-round pick and a 2020 second-rounder for trading Clark, using the first-rounder to begin a bevy of trades that ended up increasing Seattle’s draft haul from five picks entering the draft to 11 by the time it was over.
Clearing out the $17.1 million allotted to Clark also helped Seattle sign Ansah, whose salary cap number is expected to be $9 million, as well as make other moves.
With the moves clearing out the salaries of Baldwin and Chancellor accounted for, Seattle was listed Friday as having $33 million in effective cap space for the 2019 season, according to OvertheCap.com, sixth-most in the NFL.
That number does not include Ansah nor Woods nor the three other players signed Thursday — Taylor, fullback Nick Bellore and guard Marcus Martin.
But assuming the contracts for Taylor, Bellore and Martin are for not a whole lot, Seattle figures to still have $22-23 million or so in cap space after the signing of Ansah and Woods, more than enough room to still make a signing or two as well as then try to re-sign middle linebacker Bobby Wagner and defensive tackle Jarran Reed (Wagner has a $14.037 million cap hit this year and an extension could be structured to lessen that number, if needed.)
The addition of Ansah but subtraction of Orchard leaves the Seahawks with eight players who can be considered as primarily defensive ends.
Three of those — Ansah, Cassius Marsh and Jacob Martin — are expected to play primarily at the team’s LEO, or edge rusher, position that Clark played last season.
The others, including first-round pick L.J. Collier, are expected to play primarily the team’s five-technique, or left defensive end, spot. Others who also can play that spot are 2018 third-round pick Rasheem Green, Quinton Jefferson — who was the primary starter there last season — Branden Jackson and Nazair Jones.
Collier, Green, Jones and Jefferson, in particular, all also are expected to be able to move inside and play tackle on passing downs, a role similar to that handled ably by Michael Bennett from 2013-17.