- Jamison Hensley, ESPN Staff Writer
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This year, the AFC North blog will be rolling out the top 20 free agents available in the division. Free agency begins March 12. But first, let's take a look back at my rankings for the top 15 free agents in 2012 and see how they fared:
1. Ray Rice, Ravens running back: He ended up avoiding the franchise tag last year by signing a five-year deal worth roughly $40 million. Rice delivered big plays for the Ravens in the regular season, like fourth down-and-29 in San Diego, but continued to have fumbling problems in the playoffs.
2. Mike Wallace, Steelers wide receiver: Whether it was not participating in the offseason or Todd Haley's offensive philosophy, Wallace wasn't the same deep threat from previous seasons. He ended up with a career-low 13.1 yards per catch and a high number of drops.
3. Ben Grubbs, guard: He left Baltimore to New Orleans and was a good addition to a disappointing Saints team. Grubbs was one of the top three left guards in the NFL last season.
4. Lardarius Webb, Ravens cornerback: He was the Ravens' top cornerback before tearing his ACL in Week 6. Before the season, he signed a six-year, $50 million extension with Baltimore.
5. Reggie Nelson, Bengals safety: He remains one of the best cover safeties in the league. Quarterbacks had a 58.2 passer rating when throwing his way.
6. Jarret Johnson, outside linebacker: The Ravens missed Johnson setting the edge against the run in 2012. But Johnson only had 40 tackles for the Chargers, his fewest in six years.
7. Cedric Benson, running back: The 2012 season might have been Benson's last. It was a disappointing move from Cincinnati to Green Bay, where he ran for 248 yards in five games (3.5-yard average) before landing on injured reserve with a foot injury.
8. Peyton Hillis, running back: This is another running back who didn't live up to my rankings. Despite being reunited with his offensive coordinator from his best season in Cleveland, Hillis ran for 309 yards and one touchdown for the Chiefs.
9. Dimitri Patterson, Browns cornerback: He was supposed to supplant Sheldon Brown as the starter. Patterson was eventually cut by the Browns for taking too long to recover from a high-ankle sprain and landed in Miami, where he injured his ankle again.
10. Phil Dawson, Browns kicker: In retrospect, Dawson should've been ranked sixth. He was nearly perfect in 2012, hitting 29 of 31 field goals (93.5 percent) to earn his first Pro Bowl.
11. Frostee Rucker, defensive end: He went from Cincinnati to Cleveland, where he recorded a career-high 48 tackles and matched a career-best with four sacks. Rucker was then released after one season because he doesn't fit in the Browns' new 3-4 scheme.
12. Manny Lawson, Bengals outside linebacker: He still hasn't made the expected impact as a pass rusher. But he's been adequate against the run.
13. Jameel McClain, Ravens inside linebacker: He was among the Ravens' leading tacklers before he suffered a spinal cord contusion in Week 14. McClain missed the playoffs and the Super Bowl.
14. Mike Nugent, Bengals kicker: This was the second time in three seasons that Nugent ended up on injured reserve. He was 19-of-23 (82.6 percent) on field goals before hurting his calf in December.
15. William Gay, cornerback: Going from Pittsburgh to Arizona didn't change his fortune. Gay was among the worst-rated cornerbacks in the NFL last season, giving up 726 yards passing last season (15th-most in the league).