The New England Patriots were the oldest team in the NFL for 2018, per Football Outsiders’ Snap-Weighted Average Roster Age rankings. When valuing the average age by the player’s snaps played, the Patriots average age for the season was 27.9 years, ahead of the Carolina Panthers (27.6), Philadelphia Eagles (27.4), Oakland Raiders (27.2), and Atlanta Falcons (27.1). No other team featured an average age of greater than 27.
The Patriots boasted the oldest offense (28.5 years) and oldest special teams (27.9 years), along with the fifth-oldest defense (27.2 years).
It’s natural to point to Tom Brady as pulling up the average age, but Football Outsiders provided additional context to their findings.
The Patriots’ high [snap-weighted age] is not entirely due to Brady. Drop him, and the Patriots still finish second behind Carolina in the SWA order. New England had significant snaps from Devin and Jason McCourty (31 each), Patrick Chung (31), Chris Hogan (31), Marcus Cannon (30), and a slew of other players in their 30s. They had 8,909 snaps from the over-30 club, nearly 500 more than any other team.
The Patriots having an older offense is nothing new; with the exception of 2015, they have ranked in the top five ever since 2012, and they once again had the oldest receiving corps in the league.
The defense being old, however, is entirely new. Back when we started doing yearly articles on this, the Patriots routinely had one of the youngest defenses in the league. When they won the Super Bowl in 2014 and 2016, they ranked 19th and 14th in defensive SWA, respectively. They got old very quickly.
Football Outsiders notes that the Patriots were older than average at every positional grouping outside of the trenches, where the offensive and defensive lines were roughly a year younger than average.
Fortunately, the Patriots have plenty of draft capital and should be able to add another 10 or so young players to the roster, with half of them being likely contributors. As the figures show, New England needs to add youth at the skill positions, with no real future at wide receiver or tight end and the majority of the defensive secondary starters on the wrong side of 30 years old.
If there’s any team that can reload and compete in 2019, it’s the Patriots.