Age Matters

What do Brian Dawkins, Tra Thomas, Jon Runyan, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Marvin Harrison, Orlando Pace and Torry Holt all have in common? None of them will be Eagles in 2009. Why? They’re all over the age of 32.

What do Stacy Andrews, Sean Jones and Rashad Baker have in common? They will be Eagles in 2009. Why? Each of them is 27-years old.

See the pattern? Like it or not, it’s out with the old and in with the new. The Eagles do not sign or trade for aging players. Jon Runyan was 27 when he joined the team. Jevon Kearse was 28. T.O. was 31.  Darren Howard was 30. Kevin Curtis was 29. Asante Samuel was 27. Even stiffs like Nate Wayne and Mark Simoneau were 28 and 27, respectively. The results on all these guys were mixed, but all of them were still in the prime of their careers when the Birds inked them to deals. They represented a low risk, high reward investment.

Signing aging players, regardless of what they are paid, is a risky practice. Remember Blaine Bishop and Levon Kirkland? In 2002, the Birds’ braintrust brought them in to shore up a defense in need of bodies. Bishop was 32, Kirkland 33. Neither were effective and neither would play another season. I still can’t forget the sight of this bumbling duo getting thrashed by the Bucs in the NFC title game in January 2003. They are proof positive of what happens when a team counts on over-the-hill players to help them win championships.

Guess how old the Steelers‘ starting tackles were in the Super Bowl? They were 25 and 27. How about the Cardinals‘ starting tackles? 24 and 30. Ryan Clark – the Steelers’ starting free safety – was 29. Antrelle Rolle – the Cardinals’ starting free safety – was 26. Eight of the Top 10 rushers in 2008 were 27 or younger. All ten of the Top 10 wide receivers were 30 or under.

Do you still believe Thomas, Runyan and Dawkins are the answers? All three were warriors for the franchise and all three busted their asses to bring a title to Philadelphia. However, the sad, frustrating truth is they won zero championships during their time wearing Eagle green. If they couldn’t get it done in 2004, do you think they would have in 2009? If something is broke, you fix it. You don’t leave it as is and cross your fingers that it will work the next time.

Pro Football is a young man’s game. Old, experienced teams do not win Super Bowls in today’s NFL. Young, fast, aggressive, hungry teams win championships. A core of solid veterans is valuable, but too many geriatrics at key positions doesn’t bode well for a team’s success or longevity. It’s better to let a player walk a year early rather than a year late. Young guys equal explosive plays. Old guys equal average plays.

Letting go of our team’s favorite sons is never easy. Pointing the finger at an uncaring Front Office makes the most sense, but to do so would be misguided. To do so is not fully understanding the way things operate behind the scenes of every NFL franchise. Torry Holt, Orlando Pace and Marvin Harrison helped their teams win championships. Now, all three are looking for work. However, if you watched any of them last season it’s simple to see why they were cut. Their best days were clearly behind them.

Age matters. It’s a cold, hard truth in the NFL. By injecting youth into the roster, the Eagles are ensuring they remain competitive in 2009 and years beyond. They were an average team in 2008. At times, they looked old and slow. Old and slow is no way to make it in the NFL.

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