The Atlanta Falcons, who have stumbled along to a 4-8 record going into Week 14 of the 2020 NFL season, have the oldest roster in the NFL.
This can be viewed as a setback for an NFL franchise. Usually, older teams are in win-now mode (think of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers) and competing for the Super Bowl, rather than focused on developing young talent for the future.
The Falcons are an older team that is not a serious title contender, which is a worst-case scenario in the NFL.
The Falcons' roster has an average age of 26.9 years, which might not seem very old at first glance. But when you consider that the average span of an NFL career only lasts 3.3 years, and players come out of college at age 21 or 22, it signals that many Atlanta Falcons players have exceeded that timeframe and are mostly established NFL veterans.
The oldest player on Atlanta's roster is backup quarterback Matt Schaub, who is 39 years old, and has played 17 seasons in the NFL. Schaub was drafted back in 2004 by the Falcons in the third round, and has been around so long that he was actually Michael Vick’s backup in Atlanta when the dynamic scrambling superstar was tearing up the league.
After spending three seasons in Atlanta, Schaub spent his formative years in the league as the starting quarterback of the Houston Texans from 2007-2013. He had a decent run with the Texans, posting a winning record in games he started for them in four out of his seven seasons. After brief stints with the Oakland Raiders and Baltimore Ravens, Schaub returned to the Falcons in 2016, where he has been the main clipboard holder ever since.
Falcons QB Matt Ryan is exiting his NFL prime
Starting QB Matt Ryan is tied for the second oldest player on the squad, at 35 years old. He’s had a very good career with Atlanta, starting for the team ever since he was drafted third overall by the Falcons in the 2008 NFL Draft.
Now in his 13th season in the NFL, Ryan has always been extremely durable, having only missed three games in his career until this point. He missed one game last season due to an ankle injury, but before that, had not missed a contest since 2009, which is a remarkable streak.
Ryan has always been among the steadiest quarterbacks in the NFL, but his best season in the league came in 2016, when he was named league MVP.
"Matty Ice" threw for a career high 38 touchdowns that year, with only seven interceptions. Atlanta went 11-5, which was good enough to capture the division title, and earn a bye in the NFC playoffs. They defeated the Seattle Seahawks in the divisional round, and the Green Bay Packers in the NFC championship game. Unfortunately for Falcons fans, their next game will be remembered as one of the biggest collapses in NFL history, as they could not hold on to a 28-3 lead in the Super Bowl against the New England Patriots.
Ryan and Schaub are just two of 11 players on the Falcons team that are 30 years of age or older. The other notable player who falls in that category is wide receiver Julio Jones, who turned 31 years old this past February. Jones has been one of the best receivers in the NFL for a long time, and continues to be a force this season, even though nagging hamstring injuries have cost him games.
Jones has finished top three in receiving yards in six different seasons, and in 2016, he became the sixth receiver in NFL history to have a game with 300 receiving yards. That feat was accomplished against the Carolina Panthers, where the former University of Alabama star exploded in 48-33 victory. He figures to be in Atlanta for at least the next few seasons, as he is under contract through the 2023 season, but has a potential opt out option after the 2022 season.
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It will be interesting to see what direction the Falcons go in, if Jones is in his mid 30’s and the team is not competing for division titles and playoff spots.
Atlanta may not check in as the oldest team in the NFL again next season, but with Jones and Ryan exiting their primes, it seems like a good bet that the team will continue to add seasoned veterans to the roster in hopes of being able to make one last Super Bowl run.