2019 NFL Free Agency: Predicting Impact of Biggest Week 1 Signings

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistMarch 15, 2019

2019 NFL Free Agency: Predicting Impact of Biggest Week 1 Signings

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    Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

    The NFL's biggest free-agency spenders are now done with the easy part. They hit the open market with a need and emerged from bidding wars with a potential solution. 

    However, it doesn't always work out so cleanly. Big spending doesn't necessarily equal success.

    But for every prominent free-agent bust, some teams will get the most out of their investments. 

    Projecting how the most notable signings will pan out is an uphill battle. A player heading to a new team has to figure out his fit in a new system, while these teams still have to go through the draft process and training camp before getting to the 2019 season. 

    Below, we'll look at a handful of the biggest signings from the first few days of free agency and project their impact for next season and beyond. 

          

Landon Collins, Washington Redskins

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    Seth Wenig/Associated Press

    One of the biggest free-agent deals so far seemingly came out of nowhere, as the Washington Redskins worked some shifty cap magic to sign former New York Giants star safety Landon Collins to a six-year, $84 million deal, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport

    Collins won't be some be-all, end-all fix for the Redskins secondary. He's more of a box safety, which at this point is falling out of vogue as the league looks for more deep interchangeable coverage types. 

    That isn't to say Collins won't make a difference, though.

    Having him come up and play in the box will let the Redskins mix up a ton of different defensive looks. His run-snuffing abilities will complement Washington's elite defensive line as well.

    The Redskins still have some questions to answer at linebacker and cornerback, but Collins locks down a longtime problem area and should make an instant impact.

Le'Veon Bell, New York Jets

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    Don Wright/Associated Press

    If Le'Veon Bell's year away from football doesn't impede him too much, he's bound to play well for the New York Jets in 2019. However, the Jets may have overpaid in a one-team bidding war. 

    Bell signed a four-year, $52.5 million contract that includes $35 million guaranteed and has a maximum value close to $61 million, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.

    Regardless, Bell should make life easier on young quarterback Sam Darnold.

    He's had at least 1,200 yards on the ground in three of his last four seasons, and he had 75 or more catches in those same three seasons as well. Had he not appeared in only six games in 2015, he'd likely have topped those marks four years running.

    In New York, Bell won't have an Antonio Brown soaking up defensive attention spans or a future Hall of Famer under center feeding him the ball. He'll still produce in a high-volume role, but expecting Bell to churn out his typical numbers wouldn't be wise. 

Tyrann Mathieu, Kansas City Chiefs

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    Eric Christian Smith/Associated Press

    Tyrann Mathieu bet on himself last offseason, taking a one-year, $7 million deal with the Houston Texans rather than a long-term deal. He quickly asserted himself one of Houston's leaders on defense, tallying 89 total tackles, three sacks and two interceptions.

    That paid off, as he came to terms this week on a three-year, $42 million deal with the Kansas City Chiefs, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter. Shortly thereafter, the Chiefs parted ways with longtime safety Eric Berry, who had a $16.5 million cap hit in 2019.

    Plugging Mathieu in for Berry, who missed all but three games over the past two seasons because of injuries, should be an immediate upgrade for a defense that ranked 31st against the pass and allowed 26.3 points per game in 2018.

    While Mathieu alone won't fix all of the Chiefs' problems on defense, he'll help bolster a unit that needs new leaders after the departures of Justin Houston and Dee Ford. 

C.J. Mosley, New York Jets

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    Kelvin Kuo/Associated Press

    C.J. Mosley is about to reshape the New York Jets. 

    The four-time Pro Bowler missed only three games over his five seasons with the Baltimore Ravens. He had 100 or more tackles in four of those five seasons, and he tallied 8.5 sacks and nine interceptions as well.

    The Jets desperately needed a new identity on defense as new head coach Adam Gase takes over. Mosley is a tone-setting player who can pair with Jamal Adams to lead by example, and he'll help shore up a defense that allowed 27.6 points per game last season. 

    The Jets shelled out a five-year, $85 million deal with $51 million guaranteed to secure Mosley, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, which made him the league's highest-paid inside linebacker by far. But unlike his new teammate, Le'Veon Bell, Mosley is a known commodity and doesn't come with major question marks.

    If the Jets spent more on Mosley than other teams would for a massive upgrade, so what? 

Nick Foles, Jacksonville Jaguars

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    Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

    The Jacksonville Jaguars now have a Super Bowl MVP under center, which is a marked improvement over Blake Bortles. 

    But for all of the good that comes with Nick Foles, there are plenty of question marks.

    Foles signed a four-year, $88 million contract with a maximum value of $102 million, according to Mike Garafolo of NFL Network. The Jaguars are paying up for his recent postseason success, which is exactly they did with Bortles' extension the year prior after he went to the AFC Championship Game. 

    Foles should work out better for Jacksonville than Bortles did. He's thrown at least 20 scores in a season only once and is 30 years old, but he should at least remain composed under pressure and be able to ride a strong running game. 

    It's now on the Jaguars to upgrade Foles' supporting cast. A receiving corps featuring Marqise Lee, Dede Westbrook and Keelan Cole won't strike fear into opposing secondaries, especially if the Jaguars don't bolster their offensive line.

    Foles will improve Jacksonville's offense, but his success will come down to the Jaguars' ensuing moves.

Trey Flowers, Detroit Lions

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    Mark Zaleski/Associated Press

    Much like the Jets, the Detroit Lions need to carve out a new personality on defense. 

    Head coach Matt Patricia knew just where to go. 

    The Lions plucked Trey Flowers from the New England Patriots, giving him a five-year, $90 million deal with $56 million in guarantees, according to NFL Network's Tom Pelissero

    Flowers, who had at least six sacks in each of the past three seasons, is getting paid like a high-end pass-rusher. The 2015 fourth-round pick blossomed during Patricia's stint as Patriots defensive coordinator, dramatically improving against the run and getting used all over the field. 

    With free-agent defensive end Ezekiel Ansah likely gone, Flowers will serve as a defensive centerpiece for Detroit to build around in the coming years. 

Earl Thomas, Baltimore Ravens

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    Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

    The Baltimore Ravens suffered major defensive losses in the opening days of free agency, as C.J. Mosley signed with the New York Jets, Za'Darius Smith went to the Green Bay Packers and Terrell Suggs joined the Arizona Cardinals.

    They quickly staunched the bleeding by inking former Seattle Seahawks safety Earl Thomas to a four-year, $55 million deal with $32 million guaranteed, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.

    With 28 career interceptions and unmatched range down the field, Thomas should help to compensate for the Ravens' free-agent departures. The big concern with him moving forward is health.

    Thomas missed five games in 2016, two in 2017 and 12 last season after suffering a broken leg in Week 4.

    In a division now featuring both A.J. Green and Odell Beckham Jr., the Ravens will need Thomas to stay healthy and provide the punch he once did in Seattle's Legion of Boom.