The good, bad and ugly so far in 2019 NFL free agency

From best overall plan to least draft flexibility created, our free-agent superlatives with dust beginning to settle

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Free agency was basically over before it started, thanks to the NFL's early negotiating window's constant leaks. The good news is it gives us an opportunity to share some of our superlatives sooner. We've pared them down to 11 categories, from the best plan to the least draft flexibility created, and hopefully a lot of fun areas of discussion in between.

Yes, plenty of the smart teams pretty much sit out free agency annually (we're looking at you, Patriots), but that doesn't mean this isn't an invaluable mode of roster construction for every team — including New England, which probably doesn't win the Super Bowl a few years ago without signing Stephon Gilmore. Think the Eagles win the following season without free-agent acquisitions Nick Foles and Alshon Jeffery on offense and Chris Long and Patrick Robinson on 'D?'

And would the Patriots have won last season for the second time in three years without the trade acquisitions of Trent Brown and Jason McCourty?

Indeed, in the NFL in 2019, we'd be remiss without also mentioning trades, which have quickly become a spring rite of passage and as viable an avenue to improving teams in the short term as building up compensatory draft pick war chests for long-term roster sustainability.

Without further ado, our 2019 NFL free-agent superlatives:

Best multi-year value signing: Panthers C Matt Paradis

Solely because he's recovering from a fractured fibula, Paradis was forced to settle for a three-year, $29 million deal including $12 million guaranteed with the Panthers. It's almost like other teams forgot the former sixth-rounder started 60 consecutive games, not missing a single snap, prior to the injury last fall. Paradis is a 29-year-old ironman who brings the kind of toughness and down-to-down steadiness rarely found at the position outside of the man he's tasked with replacing, Panthers legend Ryan Kalil. And after overextending the last time it attempted to rebuild its O-line with bloated deals for Matt Kalil and even Trai Turner's extension, Carolina's signing of Paradis on the heels of Mitch Morse's monster deal in Buffalo (AAV of $11.125 million with $26.2 GTD) looks shrewd.

Best prove-it deal: Bears S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix

The Bears replaced the sound and physical Adrian Amos, who jumped ship for their oldest rivals, with Clinton-Dix, the former Packers first-rounder, and saved $11.5 million this season. Ryan Pace isn't known for his free-agency values, but this could go down as one of his best. Clinton-Dix brings more pedigree and playmaking potential than Amos, and though he's not as consistent as a tackler and in his assignments, his perfect fit in the NFL's No. 1 scoring 'D' figures to cover that up a bit. Basically, the Bears might have sacrificed a bit of reliability at safety for a more dynamic player, while getting a bit more durable and a bit less dynamic at nickel, swapping Bryce Callahan for Buster Skrine.

Smartest FA plan: Browns

Could the collection of mercurial talents backfire on John Dorsey? Of course. But we'll never fault a general manager with a rising star QB only entering Year 2 of his rookie deal for being as aggressive as possible. The Browns were one of the more talented teams in football entering 2019 and have added WR Odell Beckham, DE Olivier Vernon, DL Sheldon Richardson and RB Kareem Hunt. Except Hunt, a luxury addition under extenuating circumstances, all three play premium positions, have Pro Bowl credentials and remain in the primes of their career. Though OBJ obviously catches the most headlines, we especially love adding Vernon across from Myles Garrett. Dorsey wisely dealt a guard — and a good one in Kevin Zeitler — for a top-end pass rusher, knowing he can plug his OG hole with the 33rd overall pick a year ago, Austin Corbett.

Most confusing FA plan: Washington

We could easily pick Dave Gettleman's Giants, but at what point does it just become piling on? We'll instead side with rival Washington, which paid Landon Collins free agency's most outrageous deal; traded for Case Keenum, whom the Vikings spent so much on Kirk Cousins to replace; let Jamison Crowder, Preston Smith and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix escape. And did we mention the Collins deal? Box safety or not, why splurge at that position when 2019 looks like a rebuilding year and a coaching change could follow it?

Safest move: Rams S Eric Weddle

What a fabulous decision by the Rams, who will get a third-round compensatory pick for Lamarcus Joyner after replacing him with a better player in Eric Weddle. Moreover, Weddle signed a two-year deal with $6.2 million guaranteed, or $15 million less than Joyner and $9 million less than Amos. Granted, the Rams' hometown allure likely created a discount here, but why should they apologize? Getting one of the game's more steady players at free agency's most surprisingly lavish position for offseason spending was superb work. We can't wait to see the fun Wade Phillips will have with Weddle, who continues to bring sensational versatility and leadership.

Riskiest move: Eagles QB Nick Foles

Four years and $88 million with $50-plus million guaranteed for the Super Bowl MVP seemed quite excessive when we consider that no other teams appeared to be serious bidders. This feels like a case of overcompensating in an attempt to right a wrong. Foles should bring instant credibility to the QB corps and much-needed leadership to an immature locker room. But that dazzling postseason run two seasons ago absolutely obscures the fact that the streaky Foles was mostly awful this past January and has an 88.5 regular-season career passer rating. It just doesn't feel like Jacksonville's QB situation is fully fixed here.

Smartest trade: Jets OG Kelechi Osemele

I actually like a lot of what GM Mike Maccagnan has done this offseason with his new lease on life, and the acquisition of Osemele from Oakland at the cost of moving down 32 spots early on Day 3 could be as important as any move. At his best, the 29-year-old Osemele is a game changer up front, a run-game mauler who adds a layer of comfort in the pocket for young QB Sam Darnold. At his worst, Osemele is still better than anything the Jets had at guard last season, and they can cut ties after 2019 without any further cap damage after allocating $10.5 million in smart money this season.

Most puzzling trade: Titans QB Ryan Tannehill

The Dolphins were going to release Tannehill, and we're hard-pressed to think that move was going to trigger a bidding war for the failed former first-rounder. Heck, the team most likely to pursue him might have been the Jets, who are short on picks. So why Tennessee thought it was necessary to send the Dolphins next year's fourth-rounder and a seventh this year in exchange for Tannehill and a 2019 sixth-rounder is a mystery. Especially when we consider that they reportedly guaranteed him $7 million — $5 million of which will be covered by the Dolphins — with a chance to earn up to $12 million in incentives. That's all fine and good, but Tannehill and embattled starter Marcus Mariota ($20.9 million cap hit in his Year 5 option) are free agents next march.

Best available free agent: Chiefs OLB Justin Houston

This one's not even close. Houston is still a dangerous two-way player when he's on the field, where he wreaked regular havoc down the stretch for the Chiefs last season. Because of the injuries and age, we do understand why teams would be apprehensive. But it's not too often that someone with Houston's ability to provide a premium service is available at this juncture.

Team that created most draft leverage: Giants

We've written plenty on how Dave Gettleman's original Giants plan was wholly ill advised and it took way too long for him to finally pick a lane. Still, he did OK strictly in terms of compensation in the OBJ trade, and having the Browns' 17th overall pick (plus a third-rounder) could get Big Blue right in the sweet spot for, say, Duke QB Daniel Jones or to continue stockpiling draft capital to finally land their quarterback. That won't buy him any good will, but the Giants could replace Vernon and land the quarterback they have waited this long on with their two first-rounders. Throw in Collins replacement Jabrill Peppers and this trade isn't nearly as bad as what first met the eye.

Draft most handcuffed by free agency: Chiefs

Trading Dee Ford and releasing Justin Houston leaves Kansas City with a crater-sized void on its edges, threatening Chris Jones' ability to avoid constant doubles inside. The Tyreek Hill investigtion — which we'll write more on later Monday — and departures of Chris Conley and Demetrius Harris means the Chiefs suddenly are in real need at the WR position. The Chiefs spent dearly on Tyrann Mathieu, and he can wear a lot of hats, but outside corner isn't one of them and this draft has few to offer, unlike EDGE rushers.

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