Over the course of the weekend, the England Patriots have cut their roster to 53 active players through a series of releases, trades and placing players on injury lists. At least as things stand right now, those 53 men will be the ones asked to defend the team's Super Bowl title.
While we have already taken a first look at the roster, let's dig a little deeper and dissect it not by position but by another category: age. And it turns out that New England has a rather young team despite being led by the NFL's second-oldest active player.
QB Tom Brady
Even though the consesus greatest quarterback of all time has turned 40 a month ago, he still appears to be his usual stellar self on the field. Don't expect Tom Brady to slow down any soon.
K Stephen Gostkowski, LB David Harris
Gostkowski has seemingly been around forever and could realistically play up to 10 more seasons in the NFL, while Harris was added earlier this offseason. Both therefore bring plenty of experience to the table and – especiall in the kicker's case – will play vital roles in 2017.
DT Alan Branch
Similar to former Michigan alumnus Tom Brady, Alan Branch is still going strong despite a relative advanced age for a player at his position. The 32-year old was New England's best defensive tackle last year and it would not be a surprise to see him repeat the feat in 2017.
WR Danny Amendola, WR Matthew Slater
Amendola is entering his fifth season with the Patriots, while Slater will play his 10th. And while both appear to be on the back-end of their respective careers, they still have plenty of value for the Patriots due to their experience and past production.
SS Patrick Chung, FS Devin McCourty
Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung form one of the NFL's best safety tandem. With both on the wrong side of 30, however, the Patriots will have to ask themselves how long they will be able to continue playing at such a high level. For the next few seasons, however, this question will likely not have to be asked just yet.
FB James Develin, OT Marcus Cannon, OT Nate Solder
James Develin and Marcus Cannon are both part of New England's long-term roster planning. Nate Solder, on the other hand, is entering the final year of his contract. It would therefore not be a surprise to see them team work on an extension to keep Tom Brady's blindside protector around for the foreseeable future.
SS Nate Ebner, TE Rob Gronkowski, WR Chris Hogan, LB Shea McClellin
Rob Gronkowski and Chris Hogan are two core members of New England's passing attack – and they are right in their prime. Barring injury, both are projected to see plenty of targets during the 2017 campaign.
TE Dwayne Allen, P Ryan Allen, CB Johnson Bademosi, RB Rex Burkhead, CB Malcolm Butler, DT Lawrence Guy, LB Dont'a Hightower
Two of the Patriots' core defenders – Dont'a Hightower and Malcom Butler – are part of this group. However, despite both being 27 years old, they stand at a different point in their respective careers: Hightower has receive a big new contract in March while Butler is playing on his restricted tender and is scheduled to hit free agency next offseason.
RB Mike Gillislee, CB Stephon Gilmore, FS Duron Harmon, RB Dion Lewis, LB Kyle Van Noy, OT LaAdrian Waddle
Three of the Patriots' premier offseason signings – Mike Gillislee, Stephon Gilmore, Duron Harmon – are only 26 years old and entering their prime. All three should play prominent roles for New England this upcoming season, while Dion Lewis and Kyle Van Noy should resume their rotational roles.
OC David Andrews, LS Joe Cardona, OT Cameron Fleming, LB Marquis Flowers, QB Jimmy Garoppolo, DE Cassius Marsh, WR Malcolm Mitchell, RB James White
The majority of 25-year olds on the Patriots' 2017 roster have already played important roles last year: David Andrews and Joe Cardona served as starting center and long snapper, respectively, while James White and Malcolm Mitchell were key rotational pieces. Furthermore, Jimmy Garoppolo and Cameron Fleming proved themselves valuable backups.
WR Phillip Dorsett, DE Trey Flowers, SS Brandon King, LB Harvey Langi, OG Shaq Mason, SS Jordan Richards, CB Eric Rowe, OG Joe Thuney
New England has talent and youth in all three phases of the game – and the 24-year olds reflect this very well: Shaq Mason and Joe Thuney are the team's starting guards, Trey Flowers is its top pass rusher, while Brandon King is a core special teamer.
DT Malcom Brown, DE Adam Butler, WR Brandin Cooks, OT Cole Croston, TE Jacob Hollister, CB Jonathan Jones, LB Elandon Roberts, DT Vincent Valentine, DE Deatrich Wise Jr.
Two of the Patriots' top players are still only 23 years old: Wide receiver Brandin Cooks is projected to play a huge role for the team in 2017, while Malcom Brown serves as a starter at defensive tackle and will also see considerable snaps.
Coming off their second Super Bowl title in three years, the Patriots have arguably the NFL's deepest roster. Simultaneously, it is one that offers a unique blend of talent, experience and youth – the team's average age is only 26.5. In short: The Patriots appear to be set up well for the next few years.