Cowboys Go For Youth Movement

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

'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.

Roster Age

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.

Team Unit
Avg. Age end 2009 Avg. Age end 2010
Total 53-man Roster 26.8 26.5
Total Offense 27.2 27.1
Skill Positions 25.9 26.4
O-Line 29.2 28.1
Total Defense 26.4 25.8
Front Seven 26.5 26.3
Secondary 26.1 25.0

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.

Pos
2009 Roster
2010 Roster
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
Chris Gronkowski 24
TE Jason Witten 27 Jason Witten 28
Martellus Bennett 22 Martellus Bennett 23
John Phillips 22
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
Josh Brent 22
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
Leon Williams 27
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
Curtis Johnson 24
CB Terence Newman 31 Terence Newman 32
Mike Jenkins 24 Mike Jenkins 25
Orlando Scandrick 24 Orlando Scandrick 25
Alan Ball 24
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
Danny McCray 22
ST David Buehler 22 David Buehler 23
Mat McBriar 30 Mat McBriar 31
L.P. Ladouceur 28 L.P. Ladouceur 29
Nick Folk 25
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