The Ravens brought in free agent pass-rusher Ezekiel Ansah for a visit last week and while nothing seems to have materialized out of it, finding a way to sign him should be a huge focus over the next several weeks.
One of the bigger surprises of Baltimore’s draft, to me at least, was that they only added one edge rusher. As much as I like Jaylon Ferguson and what he brings to the table, I think most people expected Eric DeCosta to double-up on edge guys. He had the chance to do so in rounds 4-6 with several names still on the board, but ultimately opted not to.
While Ferguson should make an immediate impact next year, he’s still yet to prove himself at the NFL level, to no fault of his own. The same can be said for Tyus Bowser and Tim Williams who, even after two seasons, we still don’t know how good they can be.
Matthew Judon is still the only established pass-rusher on the roster, although it’s fair to note Patrick Onwuasor recorded 5.5 sacks of his own last season. However, compared to the other egde rushers on the roster, Judon is the only known commodity.
Ezekiel Ansah is more of a defensive end than he is outside linebacker, but the skill set he possesses is one the Ravens could use on defense. Ferguson is an adequate replacement for Terrell Suggs, but Baltimore didn’t replace Za’Darius Smith in the draft. They can do so by acquiring Ansah.
Ansah, who turns 30 in May, is coming a shoulder injury which required surgery and sidelined him after seven games in 2018. The combination of these two factors has likely scared teams away in free agency, as there’s not many other explanations as to why he remains unsigned.
In his first three seasons, Ansah recorded an impressive 30 sacks, including a career-high 14.5 sacks in 2015. His production has leveled out in the three years since then, although he did have 12 sacks in 2017 and four in just seven games last season.
Ansah doesn’t have much experience playing in a 3-4 scheme, but he’s versatile enough to line up in different spots on he field. He simply knows how to be disruptive and get to the quarterback, skills that are scheme-bulletproof.
Ansah’s desired contract may be out of the Ravens price range, but it doesn’t appear other teams are knocking down the door to sign him. Coming to Baltimore on a short-term deal may be the best thing for his career and a mutually-beneficial move for both sides.
In his post-draft presser, DeCosta was asked about Ansah and responded accordingly.
“We had a great visit,” said DeCosta. “He came in and was very impressive, as you’d expect … we’ll see where it leads.”
If Baltimore is going to go after him, it would likely be after May 7th. After this date, teams can sign unrestricted free agents without losing compensatory draft picks, which we know the Ravens covet.