The Seattle Seahawks must find a way to replace 13 sacks in the lineup and the constant quarterback pressure applied by a player capable of producing those numbers.
The clear way to replace a Frank Clark - traded to Kansas City prior to the NFL Draft - is to sign another Frank Clark. The other way is to piece together a collection of players capable of replicating what Clark brought to the table.
Enter Ezekiel Ansah, who could prove to be a major piece to that puzzle but could also end up being another Frank Clark. In fact, he was Frank Clark before Frank Clark was a Frank Clark.Seattle reportedly has signed Ansah - still recovering from shoulder surgery - to a one-year deal that could prove to be the kind of move that defines how to survive losing a $100-million player that a team can't afford to keep (K.C. gave Clark a five-year, $105 million deal).
Ansah, the No. 5-overall pick out of BYU in 2013, spent six years in Detroit where he amassed 48 sacks. He came out of the gates strong with 15 1/2 sacks over his first two seasons before racking up 14 1/2 in 2015 earning a Pro Bowl nod. Clark entered the league that year with three sacks for the Seahawks.
Ansah appeared to be set for stardom when early in 2016 he injured his ankle and missed the next three games. He never fully recovered and finished the season with just two sacks. He bounced back the following year with 12 sacks leading to Detroit placing the franchise tag on him last summer requiring the Lions to pay him $17.5 million.
Again, an injury slowed down Ansah. During the team's 48-17 Week 1 loss at home to the New York Jets, Ansah severely injured his right shoulder and would miss the next six games. He then played in six games before going down and out for good with an injury to the same shoulder. The Lions placed him on injured reserve with three games remaining.
The fact that Ansah appeared in just seven games (two starts) and still produced four sacks is telling. The man can still play. When healthy.
Plus, Seattle would then be in a position to keep Ansah, and maybe for far less moey than Clark received from Kansas City.
The Seahawks have other avenues to explore for generating pressure on opposing quarterbacks with and without Ansah in the lineup. First, and maybe foremost, is rookie L.J. Collier, selected in the first round out of TCU. However, he shouldn't be expected to deliver instantly as a rookie. Not saying he won't, just saying it shouldn't be expected. Collier produced six last season and 14 1/2 for his career at TCU.
Another offseason move that shouldn't be ignored is the re-acquisition of defensive end Cassius Marsh, who broke into the league with Seattle in 2014 and has since played for Tampa Bay, New England and most recently San Francisco.
Marsh had 5 1/2 sacks last year with the 49ers. The ability of Seattle coach Pete Carroll and defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. to scheme pressure could lead to Marsh delivering similar numbers as a third-down pass rush specialist.
When Seattle gets Collier, Ansah, Marsh and defensive tackle Jarran Reed (10 1/2 sacks last year) on the field together, that group will prove quite formidable. And let's not forget Rasheem Green, a third-round pick out of USC last year. He could compete for playing time, as well.
As stated in a previous post, in an ideal world Seattle would be able to financially afford to keep its drafted talent when it becomes elite. Keeping Clark at $21 million per season after already signing quarterback Russell Wilson for $35 million per would have destroyed the team's cap space.
Keeping the franchise quarterback happy will require some deft moves moving forward in oder to remain a playoff team. Signing a guy like Ansah is an example of such a move.