Call it the law of entropy, call it a logical progression, whatever - the fact is, if you don't rejuvenate your roster, it's average age will increase by one year every year.
The Cowboys go into the 2010 season with 20 of 22 starters from the 2009 season returning. On the surface, this does not bode well for the average age of the team, and surely you would expect the average age of the roster to move up, right?
Well, don't call me Shirley. The average age of the initial 53-man roster has actually declined versus last year. The group of Cowboys players announced yesterday will have an average age of 26.5 by the end of 2010, which is down slightly from the 26.8 opening day roster last year.
Largely unnoticed and lost amid all the hoopla about the age of the O-line, the Cowboys have quietly embarked on a roster rejuvenation course over the last couple of years that is culminating in formidable depth at many positions. Depth that looks set to back up a very strong core of players in their prime. More details after the break.
'Roster rejuvenation' is a long term strategy. As such it runs counter to a quick fix mentality that is most often evidenced by some free agency signings. Failing to follow that strategy consistently may come back to bite you in a big way and you'll find yourself scrambling and trying to plug holes at almost any cost (in dollars or player age) in free agency instead of building for the future.
Roster rejuvenation is also about finding young and talented players not just through the draft but also through free agency. The Cowboys have included four undrafted free agents on their 53-man roster, a testament both to the player evaluation skills of the front office and to the belief in developing talent in-house (the quality of next year's crop of UDFA signings will benefit from this move, as this is the best recruiting argument you'll have for UDFAs).
No country for old men?
Roster rejuvenation is also about steadily trimming the greybeards from the lineup. Look at the '08 and '09 starters who've ridden off into the sunset and their ages this season.
|'08 Starter||09 Starter|
|Roy Williams (SS) 30||Flozell Adams (OT) 35|
|Anthony Henry (CB) 34||Ken Hamlin (FS) 29|
|Terrell Owens (WR) 37||Patrick Crayton (WR) 31|
|Greg Ellis (OLB) 35|
|Zach Thomas (LB) 37|
|Keith Davis (SS) 32|
Of the list above, only Zach Thomas has officially retired to date.
Think about the Cowboys' defensive roster: Only two starters, Keith Brooking and Terence Newman have seen their 30th birthday. The team has an abundance of youth on defense and finished 2nd in scoring last year. Looking for holes? You won't find many.
On offense, outside of the O-line, only Patrick Crayton was 30 or older last year, and this year only Tony Romo will cross the 30 threshold - prime real estate for a QB.
As we'll see below, despite all the public outcry about the age of our O-line, what has gone quietly unnoticed is that many units on the team have been getting steadily younger.
Nowhere is the youth movement more evident than on the O-line. While four of the five starters return one year older from last year, only one backup player, Montrae Holland, remains on the roster from last season - all other backups were jettisoned like so much excess baggage. As a result the O-line is the unit with the largest drop in average age, going down by more than a year on average.
||Avg. Age end 2009||Avg. Age end 2010|
|Total 53-man Roster||26.8||26.5|
The offensive skill positions are the only area where the average age is up on the team. One Dez Bryant does not make a spring, but the age here is of no real concern particularly since 37-year old Jon Kitna skews the average somewhat.
Roster Comparison 2009 vs 2010
Below is the full list of the initial 53-man rosters announced after the cuts to this year and last year. The age given in the table (and the basis for all the averages above) is the age of each player on December 31st of the respective year.
|Player||Age 2009||Player||Age 2010|
|QB||Tony Romo||29||Tony Romo||30|
|Jon Kitna||37||Jon Kitna||38|
|Stephen McGee||24||Stephen McGee||25|
|RB||Marion Barber||26||Marion Barber||27|
|Felix Jones||22||Felix Jones||23|
|Tashard Choice||25||Tashard Choice||26|
|FB||Deon Anderson||26||Deon Anderson||27|
|TE||Jason Witten||27||Jason Witten||28|
|Martellus Bennett||22||Martellus Bennett||23|
|WR||Roy Williams||28||Miles Austin||26|
|Patrick Crayton||30||Roy Williams||29|
|Miles Austin||25||Dez Bryant||22|
|Sam Hurd||24||Sam Hurd||25|
|Kevin Ogletree||22||Kevin Ogletree||23|
|OL||Flozell Adams||34||Doug Free||25|
|Kyle Kosier||31||Kyle Kosier||32|
|Andre Gurode||31||Andre Gurode||32|
|Leonard Davis||31||Leonard Davis||32|
|Marc Colombo||31||Marc Colombo||32|
|Doug Free||25||Alex Barron||28|
|Montrae Holland||29||Montrae Holland||30|
|Duke Preston||27||Phil Costa||23|
|Cory Procter||27||Sam Young||23|
|Pat McQuistan||26||Robert Brewster||24|
|DE||Marcus Spears||26||Marcus Spears||27|
|Jay Ratliff||28||Jay Ratliff||29|
|Igor Olshansky||27||Igor Olshansky||28|
|Jason Hatcher||27||Jason Hatcher||28|
|Junior Siavii||31||Stephen Bowen||25|
|Stephen Bowen||25||Sean Lissemore||23|
|ILB||Bradie James||28||Bradie James||29|
|Keith Brooking||34||Keith Brooking||35|
|Bobby Carpenter||26||Sean Lee||24|
|Jason Williams||23||Jason Williams||24|
|OLB||DeMarcus Ware||27||DeMarcus Ware||28|
|Anthony Spencer||25||Anthony Spencer||26|
|Steve Octavien||25||Victor Butler||23|
|Victor Butler||22||Brandon Williams||22|
|CB||Terence Newman||31||Terence Newman||32|
|Mike Jenkins||24||Mike Jenkins||25|
|Orlando Scandrick||24||Orlando Scandrick||25|
|S||Ken Hamlin||28||Alan Ball||25|
|Gerald Sensabaugh||26||Gerald Sensabaugh||27|
|Michael Hamlin||24||Akwasi Owusu-Ansah||22|
|Pat Watkins||27||Michael Hamlin||25|
|Marvin White||27||Barry Church||22|
|ST||David Buehler||22||David Buehler||23|
|Mat McBriar||30||Mat McBriar||31|
|L.P. Ladouceur||28||L.P. Ladouceur||29|