How Does This Year's Free-Agent Class Compare to 2012?

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How Does This Year's Free-Agent Class Compare to 2012?
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The 2013 class of free agents is certainly deep, but how does it compare to last year's class?

With free agency set to begin for the 2013 season in just over a week, it got us thinking about how this year's class compared to the 2012 free-agent class.

Is it better or worse? Is there more star power at the top of this class or is it a deeper class than last year's free agents?

Today we'll break down how this year's free-agent class compares to the 2012 class of free agents.

 

Elite Talent

When looking at the 2013 free-agent class compared to last year's class, the amount of elite talent isn't even close. With players like Peyton Manning, Carl Nicks and Mario Williams all hitting free agency, the 2012 class had some extreme talent to offer.

Rick Stewart/Getty Images
Mario Williams was a huge free agent in 2012. If he was a free agent this year, he'd easily be the best player available.

The 2013 class had a chance to match last year's class in terms of elite talent, but a number of big-name players didn't hit free agency. Joe Flacco received a new contract and Ryan Clady, Henry Melton and Jairus Byrd all received the franchise tag from their respective teams.

While the 2013 class certainly has some talented players, it has nowhere near the amount of elite talent as the 2012 class.

Advantage: 2012 Class

 

Depth

This is one area where the 2013 class actually stacks up pretty well. It doesn't have the heavy hitters at the top, but it is as deep of a class of free agents as we've seen in a long time.

There are a number of positions that have the ability to produce a good amount of instant starters. The best position in terms of talent is probably cornerback. With Aqib Talib, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Brent Grimes, Sean Smith and Derek Cox all available, teams can find legitimate No. 1 cornerbacks in the bunches.

Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Sean Smith headlines an extremely deep group of free-agent cornerbacks.

Another position that offers a number of instant-impact players is wide receiver. Greg Jennings, Mike Wallace, Dwayne Bowe and Wes Welker have all at one time or another been considered some of the best receivers in the league.

The 2012 class had a handful of instant starters at each position, but the 2013 class is much deeper overall.

Advantage: 2013 Class

 

2012 Top Player vs. 2013 Top Player

There can be an argument made for a number of players in the 2013 free-agent class as being the top player available. Wallace, Bowe, Cliff Avril and Anthony Spencer all deserve consideration, but at the end of the day it doesn't really matter.

The top free agent in the 2012 class was none other than Mr. Manning himself. Not only was Manning the best player available, but he was probably one of the best available free agents in the history of the NFL.

Justin Edmonds/Getty Images
Peyton Manning was one of the best free agents to be available in NFL history.

Even if players like Flacco or Clady had actually hit free agency this year, they still wouldn't have come close to being as huge of a free agent as Manning was.

Advantage: 2012 Class

 

Final Analysis

Both the 2012 and 2013 classes have their ups and downs like any other class of free agents throughout the years.

Is the 2013 class of free agents better than the 2012 class?

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The 2012 class was filled with more elite talent and probably the best free agent we've seen in years. However, the 2013 class has more depth and is filled with players that can step in from day one and produce.

Had some of the better players in this year's class not already signed or been franchise tagged, it would have had a better chance of competing with last year's class. However, the 2012 class was filled with such talent at the top and decent depth throughout that it will be remembered as one of the best free-agent classes in NFL history.

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