2013 NFL Free Agents: Breaking Down Top Defensive Players

Ryan RudnanskySenior Writer IFebruary 19, 2013

DETROIT, MI - NOVEMBER 24:  Defensive lineman Cliff Avril #92 of the Detroit Lions reacts in the first half while taking on the Green Bay Packers during the Thanksgiving Day game at Ford Field on November 24, 2011 in Detroit, Michigan.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

With NFL free agency set to kick off on March 12, teams have their eyes on several game-changing defensive players.

Whether it be a defensive lineman or a linebacker, there are some big names out on the market this year. While certain teams will scramble to retain them before free agency begins, there are always some big-time players who slip through the cracks.

Not only does this year's defensive class offer instant impact, it also boasts some young players in their prime.

Here's a look at my top five potential free agents in 2013.


5. Anthony Spencer, OLB, Dallas Cowboys

Anthony Spencer had a career year in 2012, racking up a team-high 95 tackles and 11 sacks while earning his first career Pro Bowl selection. The 29-year-old was franchised by the Cowboys last year, and he will be a hot commodity this year if the Cowboys can't retain him.


4. Henry Melton, DT, Chicago Bears

At just 26 years of age, defensive tackle Henry Melton is an emerging force. The 6'3", 295-pounder registered a career-high 44 tackles last season, to go along with six sacks and two forced fumbles. If the Texas product isn't franchised by the Bears, there will be high demand for him throughout the league.


3. Michael Johnson, DE, Cincinnati Bengals

Michael Johnson was a bit overshadowed by sensational defensive tackle Geno Atkins last season, but his numbers (52 tackles, 11.5 sacks, interception) show just how important he was to the Bengals. The 26-year-old only figures to get better after a career year.


2. Michael Bennett, DL, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Michael Bennett had a breakout year for the Buccaneers in 2012, posting 41 tackles (including 10 tackles for loss), nine sacks and three forced fumbles. The 27-year-old has also displayed great versatility, playing at defensive end and defensive tackle last season in Tampa.


1. Cliff Avril, DE, Detroit Lions

Cliff Avril is widely regarded as the best defensive player in the 2013 free-agent class. The 26-year-old was spectacular for the Lions in 2012, posting 9.5 sacks, four tackles for loss and two forced fumbles. Avril's consistency stands out. He's posted at least 8.5 sacks in each of his past three seasons.


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