Building through the draft is always the preference, but free agency is where NFL teams go for instant gratification, seeking out proven veterans who have shown themselves at the pro level already.
Esteemed colleague Kevin Seifert and the collective ESPN NFL Nation compiled a list in early October with a forecast of the top 25 free agents of 2019. I made a couple of changes for my list, and here's the fun part: I get to take a stab at projecting where these players might make sense for 2019 and beyond.
A couple of caveats: Some of the top players are destined for a franchise tag. That doesn't whittle the list down entirely, but a $100 million player on the open market is unlikely to play anywhere else than where he currently calls home because of his franchise tag. Additionally, while I will be mindful of potential cap constraints a team would have in signing a player, there's a lot of housekeeping to be done ahead. Teams that are currently cap-strapped can open up resources through other roster movement.
Let's play matchmaker.
Kwon Alexander, LB
The fit: Buccaneers (extension)
An ACL injury cut Alexander's 2018 season short, but the tackling machine figures to be ready to compete again in time for Week 1 of 2019. He's a core part of Tampa Bay's nucleus and a natural candidate for an extension. He won't turn 25 until training camp of 2019; I expect that to be in Tampa Bay.
Ezekiel Ansah, DE
The fit: Rams
Ansah has had an injury-riddled season, concluding with a shoulder issue that landed him on injured reserve. Ansah is at his best when he gets to pin his ears back and rush the passer, something the Rams are going to continue to hunt for if they are unable to retain Dante Fowler Jr. The reality for Los Angeles is that one-year deals for non-core players are going to be a massive resource: The team has recently paid Aaron Donald and Todd Gurley on record-setting deals, with Marcus Peters and others (Jared Goff, eventually) on the horizon. Ansah on a one-year prove-it deal makes sense.