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The 5 O'Clock Club: Should the Redskins be worried about deteriorating play from older players?

It’s 5 o’clock somewhere…

Minnesota Vikings v Washington Redskins Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

The 5 o’clock club aims to provide a forum for reader-driven discussion at a time of day when there isn’t much NFL news being published. Feel free to introduce topics that interest you in the comments below.

I was reading an article at OverTheCap this week on the topic of guaranteed contracts. While I find the entire topic of guaranteed contracts fascinating, I realize that many people aren’t as fascinated by NFL contracts as I am; however, there was one particular section that I thought would be of particular interest to people not living in Bangkok.

Jason Fitzgerald wrote:

[OverTheCap] looked at the top 15 passing yard leaders, top 20 rushing yard leaders, top 30 receiving yard and sack leaders, top 75 tacklers, top 49 interceptions, and 87 passes defensed and looked at the average age as well as the percentage of players at least 28 and 30.

Why 28 and 30 [years old]? 28 is generally the age every player is off a rookie contract and 30 is kind of considered the “death age” in the NFL.

The only successful positions for 28+ players are pass rushers and quarterbacks (if I had an easy to use metric for OL my guess is they are also 28+).

There are also some older players in the secondary who have been able to grab some interceptions. But the average player for these positions is basically 27 and less. The 30+ [high performing] player is nearly non-existent.

The message is pretty stark. Aside from quarterback, and to a lesser extent ball hawks & pass rushers, there’s a barrier that appears at around age 29 or 30. Only around 10% of players at that age can perform at an ‘elite’ level. Said another way, 90% of the elite performers when it comes to rushing, receiving, tackles and passes defended are 29 or younger. A high performance team, apparently, needs to be a fairly young team with some veteran leadership. But the key elite players in several high profile ‘skill’ positions are likely to be in the 23-28 year old age group.

In light of those statistics, two Redskin defensive players who immediately jump to my mind are Josh Norman (age 29) and Zach Brown (age 28). The Redskins are contractually tied to Josh Norman for 3 more years (to age 32), and there are reports that the team is trying to sign an extension with the talented linebacker, Brown. Is it possible that these contracts could end up hurting the Redskins, who may end up with large chunks of cap space devoted to players who are statistically unlikely to be able to maintain high levels of performance?

I wrote an article back in August asking how long the Redskins could count on Trent Williams at Left Tackle, and the overwhelming majority of responses to the poll indicated that they expect Trent to still be the starting left tackle for the Redskins until 2022 and beyond (so, four or more seasons). I wonder if the knee problem he is suffering from this season has caused anyone to re-think that idea?

Father Time is undefeated, or so they tell me. The NFL is a hard arena, and very few players can perform at a high level for more than a decade. Should the Redskins be worried about the potential for deteriorating play from its older players, and should that impact on the roster construction in 2018 and beyond?

The Redskins have 15 active players who are currently aged 28 or older, meaning they will all be 29+ next season (I didn’t look at players on IR).

I thought it might be worthwhile to list those Redskin players

  • currently aged 28 or older, and
  • who are fairly likely to be on the Washington roster in 2018.

How long can we expect the star players on the roster to continue performing at their best?

Age 28

  • Zach Brown ILB
  • Chris Carter ILB
  • (Niles Paul TE)
  • (Brian Quick WR)

Age 29

  • Kirk Cousins QB
  • Ryan Kerrigan OLB
  • Josh Norman CB
  • Terrell McClain DL
  • Trent Williams OT
  • (Junior Galette OLB)

Age 30

  • Nick Sundberg LS
  • (Ziggy Hood DL)

Age 31 or older

  • Vernon Davis TE (33)
  • Colt McCoy QB (31)
  • Ty Nsekhe OL (32)

If you’re playing GM, are there any of these players that you would be looking to move on from based on age?

Are some of these players able to beat the statistical probabilities and continue to perform at a high level as despite getting older? (There’s a strong argument to be made that Vernon Davis is already beating the odds).


Which of these players is most likely to experience a quick dropoff in performance due to age?

This poll is closed

  • 4%
    Zach Brown
    (14 votes)
  • 7%
    Ryan Kerrigan
    (23 votes)
  • 33%
    Josh Norman
    (102 votes)
  • 18%
    Trent Williams
    (55 votes)
  • 5%
    Nick Sundberg
    (17 votes)
  • 30%
    Vernon Davis
    (92 votes)
303 votes total Vote Now