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2022 NFL roster cuts: Patriots still have one of the oldest teams in the league

Related: Quick-hit thoughts on the Patriots’ cuts and initial 53-man roster

New England Patriots v Las Vegas Raiders Photo by Chris Unger/Getty Images

NFL roster cutdown day is in the rear-view mirror, and it left the New England Patriots with 53 active players on their team. While there will be additional changes over the course of the next few days, weeks and months, we now know what the core of the 2022 Patriots will look like.

We also know that their roster is still among the oldest in the NFL, despite 10 rookies making the cut. In fact, only two other teams currently have a higher average age on their 53-man squad than the Patriots.

Like he does every year, Jimmy Kempski of The Philly Voice, broke down the league’s 32 rosters based on average age. New England’s checks in at 30th with an average of 26.8 years — closer to the bottom of the list (the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ 27.1) than to its top (the Cleveland Browns’ 25.0).

This standing among the oldest teams in football is nothing new for the Patriots. They also ranked 30th in 2018 (26.8), before moving to 32nd (2019; 27.0), 27th (2020; 26.4) and 28th (2021; 26.5) the next three seasons.

So, what is going on? Two related factors are at play.

For one, the Patriots have a lot of experience on their team. Drawing an admittedly arbitrary cut-off line at 30, we can see that 11 members of the current roster are above that age — including several starter-level players. These players are as follows:

WR Matthew Slater (37), K Nick Folk (37), QB Brian Hoyer (36), S Devin McCourty (35), S Cody Davis (33), DT Lawrence Guy (32), S Adrian Phillips (30), LB Matthew Judon (30), DT Carl Davis Jr. (30), LS Joe Cardona (30), C David Andrews (30)

Comparatively high age, spoken strictly in football terms, is not necessarily a bad thing per se or indicative of a team’s performance in any way. However, an older roster without suitable replacements in the pipeline could turn into an issue further down the line — something that has contributed to the Patriots’ current situation as the second factor worth discussing.

New England is in the middle of a rebuild that is not just tied to replacing long-time starting quarterback Tom Brady (the team is actually in decent shape there thanks to Mac Jones). However, the Patriots’ inconsistent drafting, particularly between 2017 and 2019, left the aforementioned pipeline running dry.

With no young talent emerging to take over for aging veterans that have departed relatively recently — among them Brady, Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman, James White, Dont’a Hightower, Nate Solder, Patrick Chung, Kyle Van Noy and Stephon Gilmore — the team was left in a difficult position. As a result, it opened the checkbook: the Patriots made some massive free agency investments in 2021 to help make up for their recent lack of draft success.

This brought considerable talent onto the team, but also increased its age significantly: most free agents have been in the league for quite some time, compared to players on their rookie contracts.

The last two years have seen a change of course a bit, even though 2021 brought the aforementioned free agency spending spree. The fact that 10 rookies made the initial 53-man roster this year is proof that New England is still in rebuilding mode.

The numbers do not reflect this process yet, but it is obvious that Bill Belichick and his right-hand man, Matt Groh, are actively trying to get their team younger and by extension more athletic.