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A to Z of 2019 Free Agency

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  • By Neil Reynolds NFL International
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It has been a frenzied couple of weeks in the NFL and the activity has not just been limited to free agency signings and departures. That's why trades and one notable unretirement have been added to this A to Z to mark what has been a remarkable month in the NFL.

A is for... Alexander
Kwon Alexander made a lot of splashy plays during his time with Tampa Bay but the athletic linebacker is coming off a torn ACL and has a rep for missing tackles. A price tag of $53.5 million over four years is a bit steep.

B is for... Bell's business
Le'Veon Bell wanted out of Pittsburgh and got his wish after sitting out the entire 2018 campaign, leaving $14.5 million on the table. But was it worth him sitting out the whole season? I don't think so. Pittsburgh reportedly offered him a better year-to-year deal and he lost money he is unlikely to make up.

C is for... Cleveland's excitement
There is much to love about Cleveland's offseason activity. Teaming Odell Beckham Jr. with Baker Mayfield will grab the headlines, of course, but defensive additions in the form of linemen Olivier Vernon and Sheldon Richardson will also be huge as they slot in alongside Myles Garrett.

D is for... Defensive departures in KC
Good teams often get raided in free agency but they also clear the decks with moves of their own. Kansas City have moved on from pass-rushers Dee Ford (traded to San Francisco) and Justin Houston (released) and I would say they were two of the few bright spots on a struggling defense last year. It is now very much on Patrick Mahomes in KC.

E is for... Earl
I loved the signing of safety Earl Thomas by the Baltimore Ravens. Throughout his career, Thomas has played at a high level, played with great intensity and held those around him accountable. Those are the very basic requirements of anybody who plays in the Ravens defense.

F is for... Foles
After riding to Philadelphia's rescue in each of the past two seasons, Nick Foles now gets to lead his own team in the Jacksonville Jaguars. The price was reasonable ($88 million over four years) and Foles is an upgrade, but he is also a better story than he is a quarterback and will need help around him.

G is for... Guaranteed money
The guaranteed money in most free-agent contracts is what we should be paying attention to - the rest can often be fluff with most players not reaching the end of their deals. Interestingly, there was not one contract fully guaranteed -that Kirk Cousins deal with the Minnesota Vikings was not quite the game-changer some were suggesting at the time.

H is for... Humphries
Tampa Bay slot receiver Adam Humphries was one of the more intriguing options in free agency and he was a tremendous signing for the Tennessee Titans, who saw off the New England Patriots. Humphries has the potential to make Marcus Mariota much more productive in 2019.

I is for... Inactive Colts
The Colts had the most money to spend in free agency (well north of $100 million) but have largely sat on their hands with general manager Chris Ballard preferring to re-sign key defenders like Margus Hunt and Pierre Desir. While that doesn't make headlines, it is a sound approach to team building.

J is for... Joe
Joe Flacco has been in decline with the Baltimore Ravens but Denver's desperation at quarterback made him worth a kick of the tyres for a fourth-round selection. While I don't think he will be great by any means, I do think Flacco will stop his personal slide and help the Broncos in the process.

K is for... Keenum
Surplus to requirements in Denver, Case Keenum is now a Washington Redskins quarterback. He will be an okay stopgap but nothing more than that and I have to believe Washington are in the market for a young passer in this upcoming NFL Draft.

L is for... Landon
Landon Collins has been one of the premier safeties in the NFL for a few years now but he does do much more of his work close to the line of scrimmage. His deal (six years, $84 million with $44.5 million guaranteed) feels like the over-spending of a desperate team keen to make a splash.

M is for... Missing their men
New England - and Bill Belichick in particular - so often get their man. Not in this free agency period. Keen to add more slot receiver targets for Tom Brady, the Patriots swung and missed on Humphries (they offered him more money than Tennessee), Cole Beasley and Golden Tate. That is surprising to me.

N is for... New York, New York!
The Big Apple belongs to the Jets... for now. While the Giants were offloading their talent, the Jets were adding Bell to the backfield, Jamison Crowder and Josh Bellamy at receiver and tackling machine C.J. Mosley at linebacker. It has been a good couple of weeks for Gang Green.

O is for... Overpaying
I have mentioned some of the examples of overpaying in this free agency period already but it was across the board this year with so many teams with flushed with cash to spend. Annual-pay records were set at offensive tackle, center and inside linebacker to prove the point.

P is for... Packers doing business
The Packers sat on their hands for so many years while others were spending in free agency. Then-general manager Ted Thompson just didn't believe in it. New GM Brian Gutekunst sees it differently and bolstered a struggling defense by signing edge rushers Preston Smith and Za'Darius Smith, as well as safety Adrian Amos.

Q is for... Quick-game targets
Getting the ball out quickly to intermediate targets in the slot has become a popular offensive philosophy in recent years, hence the desire to sign slot receivers like Humphries, Tate (NY Giants), Beasley (Buffalo) and Danny Amendola (Detroit). The best middle-of-the-field target could be Jared Cook okay, so he is not a slot, but the Pro Bowler could soar at tight end with Drew Brees if and when he inks a deal in New Orleans.

R is for... Rebuilding

Organic tanking, building for a better tomorrow... call it what you want. It is obvious some teams are sacrificing their short-term future for improved playoff chances down the road. The Miami Dolphins and New York Giants are two such teams who appear ready to endure painful 2019 campaigns.

S is for... Safeties
Despite the importance of the position in today';s NFL, there was not a strong safety market this time last year. That has all changed in 2019 with the likes of Collins, Thomas, Amos, Eric Weddle (LA Rams), Lamarcus Joyner (Oakland) and Andrew Sendejo (Philadelphia) being in demand and securing decent deals in the process.

T is for... Trades
I love the fact that NFL teams are becoming increasingly willing to trade with each other. Outside of the Antonio Brown and OBJ trades, there were plenty of other deals, including Dee Ford moving to San Francisco and Michael Bennett heading to New England. He should have an instant impact on the Pats' D-line.

U is for...U-turn
Not every deal that gets announced in the days leading up to free agency comes to fruition. The New York Jets thought they had Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr locked into a multi-year deal but he opted to return to Minnesota on a $67.5 million contract. That might prove to be a blessing in disguise for the Jets, who were about to lock a large percentage of their salary cap up with two linebackers.

V is for... Vontaze
Vontaze Burfict was out of work for about a day before becoming a classic Oakland Raiders signing. Burfict earned himself a reputation as a notorious and controversial linebacker during his time with the Cincinnati Bengals. He is the kind of defender the Raiders loaded up on during the 1970s. But how awkward will his relationship be with Antonio Brown, who Burfict knocked out with a vicious assault in the 2015 playoffs?

W is for... Witten
I'll hold my hands up... I didn't see this one coming! Jason Witten heading from the TV booth back to the playing field brings great headlines and name recognition, but will it bring productive play to the Dallas passing attack? I have my doubts. Witten is going to need to get by on veteran smarts and toughness.

X is for... X-Factor signings
There are plenty of players who fall into this category, but let me give you one who really excites me. I am keen to see how Tevin Coleman is used in the San Francisco backfield. He was a wonderful weapon when playing for Kyle Shanahan in Atlanta, shining as a RB and spread outside as an auxillary receiver.

Y is for... Young at heart
Some players who are very long in the tooth still managed to secure deals in free agency and I think they contribute strongly to their new teams in 2019. Defensive end Cameron Wake (Tennessee) and running back Frank Gore (Buffalo) were two of Miami's best players last year, while Thomas Davis brings reliability and leadership to the Los Angeles Chargers following his move from Carolina.

Z is for... Za'Darius
Thank goodness for Za'Darius Smith otherwise this letter was going to be a problem. He holds a great deal of promise for his new team, the Packers, after a breakout campaign in Baltimore. But a word of warning... previous pass-rushers who excelled in Baltimore's defense were Paul Kruger and Pernell McPhee, and neither did much of anything upon moving to Cleveland and Chicago respectively.

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