With only a handful of free agents left on the market that can feasibly fill starting roles and only the supplemental draft to go, 2019 rosters are realistically set across the league. With that in mind, it’s time to rank which offseason additions are likely to have the biggest impact on their new teams this season. This is a ranking of the incremental impact compared to the 2018 season of each addition, not simply the best players added. For example, Earl Thomas is arguably the top safety in the NFL when healthy, but the improvement he represents over a talented safety like Eric Weddle isn’t enough for Thomas to make this list.

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With that in mind, let’s get to the rankings.


leveon bell New York Jets
leveon bell New York Jets New players that will make to 2019 season

We don’t know exactly what kind of playing shape Bell is going to be in after a year off but assuming he’s the same guy we saw in 2018, he’s deserving of a spot on this list. While his ability as a runner doesn’t move the needle much, Bell could be Sam Darnold’s best friend if he’s utilized creatively by Adam Gase. Bell’s mismatch ability to split wide and dictate defenses is a trait only a handful of running backs across the league possess. The reason Bell winds up at only 10 on this list though is that Gase had a similarly skilled back last season in Kenyan Drake, and he only ended up splitting him out of the backfield on 14.5% of his snaps

There were a lot of little details that told Le’Veon Bell how fine it was for him to be with his team and his teammates for the Jets’ mandatory minicamp this week.

“It felt so GOOD,” Bell said with vigor. “I’m excited. I’m out there for my first practice in over a year. It was amazing to just run around, trash-talk, catch some balls and just sweat in your helmet. Things that you kind of take for granted when you’re playing. But the fact that I had the whole year off and came out here and played football again, it felt so good.”

leveon bell Newyork Jets

Another thing he noticed that was perhaps a little different than his time in Pittsburgh was that at today’s first practice of camp, No. 26 was not just one of several focal points of the offense but perhaps the main focus of this offense on this day.

“Gradually, over the course of four or five years, guys were looking at me, but it was different. We had Ben [Roethlisberger], we had AB [Antonio Brown],” Bell said. “Today I noticed guys are really watching me, which is a good thing. I love the fact that guys are leaning on me, counting on me. That’s why I’m trying to let nobody down.”

Fans may still want to press the point that the superstar unrestricted free agent could’ve felt all these things sooner if he had been with his new team for the past month instead of working out on his own. And he confirmed today that even though head coach Adam Gase will hold another week of OTAs next week before the players split, he will return to Florida after the minicamp to train.

But that’s the way Bell has done it in building himself into one of the NFL’s top backs, especially over his last four seasons playing for the Steelers from 2014-17, when he dazzled with his unique running style and production of 100 rushing yards a game, 1,200 a season and close to 2,000 yards from scrimmage a year in his three Pro Bowl campaigns.

“I want to go out there and be the best me,” he said with one of his trademark phrases that Jets fans will get to know. “That’s why I was training one-on-one with my trainer, getting to where I need to get to make sure I shape when I come here and I can take every snap if they ask me to. … I was asking them to take more snaps but they were looking out for me — ‘Le’Veon, it’s a long season.’ But I was excited just to be out there.”


Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Justin Houston (50) celebrates during the second half of an NFL divisional football playoff game against the Indianapolis Colts in Kansas City, Mo., Saturday, Jan. 12, 2019. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Even with injuries taking their toll once again, Houston was back at the top of his game down the stretch last season. He averaged four pressures a game over the last nine games of the season and was only cut because of a bloated cap hit in Kansas City. His 89.1 pass-rushing grade crushes the Colts’ top edge from last season (Kemoko Turay, 67.3).

The Indianapolis Colts‘ remarkable turnaround in 2018 has been well documented. The team has received considerable praise and deservedly so. However, the near-complete turnaround they accomplished on defense often feels overlooked. The offense was buoyed by the return of the Andrew Luck, the additions of Quenton Nelson and Braden Smith by way of the 2018 NFL Draft. They also added free agent tight end, Eric Ebron. The defense relied largely on returning faces to engineer their own meteoric rise to top-10 status (with a sizable contribution from Rookie of the Year Darius Leonard, of course). Arguably an even more impressive feat.

Maybe most impressive regarding the Colts’ reversal of defensive fortunes was that the unit did not feature a premier pass-rusher. A weapon the top defenses in the National Football League almost always have. That will most certainly not be the case in 2019. Colts general manager Chris Ballard assured that with the free agent signing of Justin Houston a week into the 2019 free agency period.


Michigan linebacker Devin Bush plays against Indiana in the first half of an NCAA college football game in Ann Arbor, Mich., Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

We all saw how valuable the inside linebacker position is in Pittsburgh’s scheme after Ryan Shazier was lost at the end of the 2017 season. They’re asked to cover a ton of ground in coverage while also being a key cog in blitz packages. No one on the Steelers’ roster could come close to replacing Shazier’s ability in both, but Bush has the traits to do so. His 85.4 pass-rushing grade and 87.7 coverage grade from last year along with 4.4s speed will fit in nicely.

He played in 39 games, 32 starts, at Michigan as a three-year letterman, a two-time Academic All-Big Ten Conference member (2017-18, registered 194 tackles, 20.0 tackles for losses, 10.0 sacks, one interception and 17 passes defenced in his Wolverines career.


Yet another addition that has as much to do with what the roster looked like in 2018 as it does with the caliber of player. The Packers were forced to flip cornerback Tramon Williams to safety because of how dire their situation was. Josh Jones (61.7 overall grade), Jermaine Whitehead (56.5) and Kentrell Brice (51.0) all filled the role miserably at times, but that position will now be Amos’ in 2019. Amos hasn’t earned a grade close to that low at any point in his career and is coming off back-to-back seasons of 80.0-plus grades.

Adrian Amos has been overlooked, disregarded and unnoticed much of his career. Those days are almost certainly over. Amos, a safety, signed a four-year, $36 million deal free agent contract with Green Bay last week. And Amos will now move from the shadows to a lead role on the Packers’ revamped defense.

“He’s a young ascending player, he has great physical traits,” Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst said of Amos. “He’s an explosive athlete, very good tackler. I thought he could play in the box, near the line of scrimmage. You can move him around, blitz him, do some different things with him. He can play the post, as well.

“In his career, I thought you saw as he grew and his instincts grew, he became more and more of a playmaker. Just again someone we kind of liked coming out of college, watched him grow, think his best football is ahead of him and we’re excited to have.”

Nothing has ever come easy to Amos.

He was the 142nd pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. Amos was also the eighth safety drafted that year, and it could be argued that only Washington’s Landon Collins has had a better start to his career among safeties selected that season.

When the NFL’s unrestricted free agency period began last week, though, fellow safeties Collins, Earl Thomas, Tyrann Mathieu, and Lamarcus Joyner all signed bigger deals than Amos did with Green Bay.


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