Let’s face it. NFL free agency is normally boring. The good players always seem to re-sign with their respective teams well before the free agency period even begins. The ones that slip through the cracks into the open market are almost always second-rate players or stars trying to hold on late in their careers.
Now sure, there was the big offseason where Peyton Manning was the prize score, or the year Drew Brees hit the open market. But those are rare instances. Even in those classes, the depth of talent was not there. The overall pool of players was not a strong one.
This offseason is much, much different.
This offseason offers a rare instance for fans. The class is riddled with star players in the prime of their careers. Just to name a few: Ndamukong Suh (DT), Dez Bryant (WR), Justin Houston (LB), Demaryius Thomas (WR), DeMarco Murray (RB) and Randall Cobb (WR) are all set to become free agents. That does not include many other incredibly talented young players or Adrian Peterson, who is likely join the list of free agent runners.
Of course a few players are sure to be re-signed before the official start of free agency. For instance, all reports from Denver point toward Thomas re-signing with the Broncos and the Cowboys are sure to sign either Murray or Bryant. But even with the few that will re-sign in time, the 2015 free agent class is still extremely special.
With this rare combination of young talent hitting the open market this summer, the obvious question becomes: Is this the best free agency class of all-time? Or more realistically, the best of the last 10 years?
It is extremely tough to compare this year’s class to those of the distant past. The structure of free agency has changed drastically and the constantly changing salary cap has made the market a completely different entity than it was in the past. For practicality, let’s look at the top three players in each free agency class throughout the last decade.
2014 – Darrelle Revis (CB), Jairus Byrd (S), Michael Johnson (DE)
2013 – Mike Wallace (WR), Wes Welker (WR), Paul Kruger (LB)
2012 – Peyton Manning (QB), Mario Williams (DE), Brandon Carr (CB)
2011 – Nnamdi Asomugha (CB), Antonio Cromartie (CB), Sidney Rice (WR)
2010 – Julius Peppers (DE), Karlos Dansby (LB), Thomas Jones (RB)
2009 – Keith Brooking (LB), Brian Dawkins (S), Darren Sharper (S)
2008 – Asante Samuel (CB), Lance Briggs (LB), Randy Moss (WR)
2007 – Nate Clements (CB), Adalius Thomas (LB), Eric Steinback (OG)
2006 – LeCharles Bentley (C), Edgerrin James (RB), Drew Brees (QB)
2005 – Samari Rolle (CB), Kevin Carter (DE), Fred Smoot (CB)
It’s safe to say most would agree the 2015 class is better than any of the others above. The only year some could argue for is the 2012 class headlined by Manning. Although the top three were excellent that year, beyond Carr, the best available player was Cortland Finnegan (CB) and the talent poll got even thinner after him.
Clearly this year is a special class of free agents. That being said, many general managers have quite a challenging task this offseason. It could shift the balance of power in the NFL and teams that don’t act in free agency this offseason could be left behind.
One thing is for sure; it is going to be one hell of an offseason.
Follow Justin on Twitter @RuoffonSports