Nick Foles, Le'Veon Bell among top free agent signings of 2019

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NFL Network's "Top 100 Players of 2019" airs daily at 9 p.m. ET over the next two weeks, unveiling a new set of 10 honorees in each installment. In Episode 3, three notable free agents -- Mark Ingram, Gerald McCoy and C.J. Mosley -- were revealed at Nos. 80, 75 and 71, respectively. With that in mind, Gil Brandt reviewed the 2019 free agent class and picked his top 10 signings of the offseason.

1
Nick Foles
QB
Jaguars

Contract: Four years, $88 million.

Jaguars defensive lineman Calais Campbell put it bluntly during a recent appearance on NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport's podcast: Jacksonville's season " really comes down to Nick Foles." It's unusual for one teammate to place so much public pressure on another, but Campbell isn't lying. Blake Bortles' inability to provide quality quarterback play on a consistent basis helped drop this team to 5-11 one year after reaching the AFC title game, and Foles' performance could spell the difference between returning to playoff relevance and remaining trapped in the AFC South cellar. Foles has started eight or more games in a season three times, putting up otherworldly numbers in 2013 (with a 27:2 TD-to-INT ratio, 8.5% touchdown rate and 119.2 passer rating in Philly) and very human stats in '14 and '15 (20:20 TD-to-INT ratio, 75.0 passer rating in 19 starts with the Eagles and Rams). He's also one of 46 people in all of recorded history to have won a Super Bowl MVP award. We'll see how 2019 plays out, but when it comes to final puzzle pieces, it's hard to do better than adding a quarterback who was two wins away from leading two consecutive Super Bowl runs as a backup.

2
Le'Veon Bell
RB
Jets

Contract: Four years, $52.5 million.

The Jets have fielded one 1,000-yard rusher in the past six seasons -- and it's no coincidence that also marked the last time they posted a winning record ( Chris Ivory totaled 1,070 yards in New York's 10-6 2015 campaign). New head coach Adam Gase didn't hesitate to pound the rock in this three seasons with the Dolphins when his running back was hot, and one can envision the same scenario with Bell in New York. The two-time All-Pro will ideally be able to take some pressure off Sam Darnold as the young QB continues to develop in Year 2 and ease the burden on a defense that ranked 25th in 2018. It will be interesting to see how Bell performs after missing all of 2018 as part of a contract dispute with the Steelers. I think he'll probably be a bit rusty at first, but he'll have the preseason to get back in the swing of it. Plus, he's a pretty good football player. Even taking into account his year off, Bell still ranks in the top five in yards from scrimmage (7,996) in the NFL since entering the league in 2013.

3
Trey Flowers
DE
Lions

Contract: Five years, $90 million.

As the highest-paid free agent of the offseason (in terms of total value of the contract), Flowers is expected to be the Lions' most impactful pass rusher since Robert Porcher, who collected a franchise-high 95.5 sacks between 1992 and 2003. Although he has yet to top 7.5 sacks in any individual campaign, Flowers led the Patriots in the category in each of the past three seasons, and he's stout against the run. Lions head coach Matt Patricia will best know how to utilize Flowers' skill set from his time as New England's defensive coordinator.

4
Landon Collins
SS
Redskins

Contract: Six years, $84 million.

Washington has been seeking a true impact safety since the passing of Sean Taylor in 2007. Some were taken aback by the hefty paycheck Collins drew, but he's a tone-setter who the team thinks can put it over the top. The Redskins believe Collins, who is the only safety in the NFL to log 95-plus tackles in each of the past four seasons, is more than just a box safety. I like him because he's smart and has good instincts. He's one of those guys who runs 4.65 but plays like someone who can run 4.52, though his lack of true speed could cause problems when he's matched up against faster tight ends. The Giants let their former second-round pick walk after his rookie contract ran out and he failed to make as much of an impact as they'd hoped for in coordinator James Bettcher's defense. Now, Collins will get two games per season to try to prove them wrong.

5
Justin Houston
DE
Colts

Contract: Two years, $24 million.

Appearing in January on WNFI-1070 in Indianapolis, our good friend Chris Ballard said his top priority was finding a dominant edge rusher. This is not easy to do, but the Colts general manager may have gotten his man, at least for the next season or so, in Houston. The 30-year-old was released after eight seasons in Kansas City likely because of a combination of age and concerns about his fit in new coordinator Steve Spagnuolo's 4-3 defense, but he's still a four-time Pro Bowler who nearly reached double-digit sacks in each of the past two seasons. Ideally, Houston will pay immediate dividends for Indianapolis, applying heat on the outside while youngster Kemoko Turay and second-round pick Ben Banogu continue to develop their pass-rush skills. If Houston is halfway right, he's going to get you 12 or 13 sacks. He's one heck of a football player who can play a significant role on a Colts defense that improved dramatically in 2018.

6
Earl Thomas
FS
Ravens

Contract: Four years, $55 million.

Thomas received the monster payday he was seeking this offseason from the Ravens, who are upgrading from one 30-plus-year-old safety (34-year-old Eric Weddle, now in Los Angeles) to another. Thomas missed 19 games over the past three seasons with injuries, including a lower leg break that ended his 2018 season in September, but Baltimore believes the 30-year-old hasn't been robbed of the range that made him arguably the best safety in the league in his prime. After losing a flood of talent in the front seven, including C.J. Mosley, Za'Darius Smith and Terrell Suggs, the Ravens need Thomas to make a difference in the secondary. There is a risk that Baltimore paid more for what Thomas was three years ago and might be disappointed in the player he is today. But if the six-time Pro Bowler is at full throttle, he's a very good football player.

7
Jared Cook
TE
Saints

Contract: Two years, $15.5 million.

The Saints haven't had a tight end who could truly draw the attention of opposing defenses since Jimmy Graham was averaging 1,000 receiving yards and 11 touchdown catches per season from 2011 to '14. That will change with Cook's arrival in the Big Easy. Yes, Cook is 32, but the greatest output of his 10-year career came in the past two seasons in Oakland, where he reached personal highs in receiving yards (896) and touchdown catches (6) in 2018. The Raiders used him to create mismatches against linebackers and slower safeties. Unless someone else rises up as a No. 2 pass-catching option behind Michael Thomas, Cook should become one of Drew Brees' favorite targets, after Thomas and running back Alvin Kamara.

8
Tyrann Mathieu
FS
Chiefs

Contract: Three years, $42 million.

The Chiefs cut Eric Berry after two injury-marred seasons and badly needed an infusion of talent on a defense that ranked 31st overall and against the pass in 2018. Enter Mathieu, who is younger than Berry and has greater range, plus the ability to cover slot receivers. Ideally, Mathieu will be able to play closer to the line of scrimmage, with rookie Juan Thornhill quickly developing into someone who can take more of a center fielder role at the other spot. Mathieu is an effective player with a knack for coming up with the ball (13 interceptions, four forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries in six seasons). He's a veteran with the savvy and smarts to help his teammates get lined up correctly in the secondary.

9
C.J. Mosley
LB
Jets

Contract: Five years, $85 million.

Gase apparently wasn't thrilled with the money the team spent on Bell or Mosley, whose average salary of $17 million blows away the annual rate pulled down by the best linebacker in the NFL, Carolina's Luke Kuechly ($12.4 million). Now it's incumbent upon defensive coordinator Gregg Williams to best utilize Mosley. The Jets, who haven't had an inside linebacker reach double digits in tackles for loss in several years, are looking for leadership and impact plays, and there is reason to think Mosley can provide both. He's a good football player and person who logged 15 takeaways over the past five seasons. In theory, we shouldn't be worried about a player's compensation if he's doing what the team expects him to do. But the pay stands out at a position that doesn't carry the same starpower or influence as, say, quarterback.

10
Gerald McCoy
DT
Panthers

Contract: One year, $8 million.

The Buccaneers dragged their feet on releasing McCoy, letting him go in late May after reported attempts to trade him apparently went nowhere, and Carolina benefited, with the six-time Pro Bowler drawing a more limited market than he likely would have if he'd been available earlier in the offseason. McCoy's presence should help Kawann Short get his career back on track after a disastrous three-sack 2018. McCoy, meanwhile, will be motivated to show up Tampa in their two NFC South showdowns. The Bucs were terrible on defense as a team last season, ranking 27th overall, and I expect McCoy to get back to form playing for a Panthers unit that ranked 15th in 2018.

Follow Gil Brandt on Twitter @Gil_Brandt.

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