A year ago, the Falcons boasted one of the younger rosters in the NFL, a product of clearing out veterans who had been with the team for a long time and replacing them with draft picks and youthful pickups. This year, they’re a little closer to the oldest roster in the league, but that comes with important caveats.
Per Jimmy Kempski’s annual roster age breakdown at Philly Voice, the Falcons are tied for the ninth-oldest team in the league, with an average 53 man roster age of 26.2. The difference between Atlanta and the Buccaneers, the eighth-youngest team, is about six months, while the Panthers (5th oldest at 26.5) and Saints (the oldest roster in the NFL, at 27.4) are among the oldest teams in the NFL. A year ago they were 25.8 years old; that would be good for the middle of the pack this year.
If this was 2020, when this was the oldest roster in the league and stunk, you’d be mighty alarmed. But it’s not, and the Falcons have gotten older chiefly by the graceful aging of stars like Jake Matthews and Grady Jarrett and the addition of impactful (somewhat) older players like David Onyemata and Mack Hollins. The money infused into this roster might have increased the average age of the players on it, but is also significantly increased the actual talent level, which is the only thing that truly matters at the end of the day. A team full of 40 year olds who kick ass beats a team of 25 year olds who aren’t any good, even if there may be a little more creaking of bones going on from the older group.
It’s far worse to be in a position like the Saints, annually doing cap gymnastics to maintain the oldest roster in the league and posting so-so seasons, or the Panthers, who are both older and coming off a slow-motion implosion led by former head coach Matt Rhule. Maybe there’s a bit of bias in that take, but a team like the Falcons with the talent to contend now and the flexibility to do so in the immediate future without being ancient or doing further retooling feels like a better spot to me.
I wrote last year that there’s nothing wrong with being an older roster if you’re also a talented one, and the Falcons have it built right with most of their older options being terrific players and plenty of younger pickups via the draft and free agency. If that number goes up at the same time the number of wins goes up, as it should, only one of those numbers will end up mattering to us.