Age is all about numbers in cap-conscious NFL

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Age is all about numbers in cap-conscious NFL

March 6, 2006
By Pete Prisco
CBS SportsLine.com Senior Writer




Age discrimination is forbidden in most areas of work, a lawyer around every corner waiting for the chance to take big brother to task for such things: 1-800-S-U-E-T-H-E-M.

In the NFL, it's a way of life.

We see it more and more every year. Turn 30, and your football life is in danger.

That became evident once again in the past few days as teams have dumped veteran after veteran to get under the salary cap as they ready for free-agency. With no collective bargaining agreement, it meant the cap would be $94.5 million, which meant a lot of teams had to make heads roll. But these guys would have been goners even with an agreement.

Naturally, the old guys went first.

Damn, getting old is a bitch.

We took a look at 17 of the name players released in the past couple of weeks for cap issues. Of those 17, 16 were at least 30, some significantly older.

The 17 players we studied averaged 31.8 years of age. Only Seattle Seahawks corner Andre Dyson was younger than 30 at 26.

Pity poor Chiefs corner Eric Warfield. He turned 30 last Friday, the same day he was sent packing by Kansas City.

If 30 wasn't the magical number in the NFL before, it certainly is now. That isn't to say that players can't be contributors and sometimes stars after their 20s, it's just that most NFL teams are reluctant to keep the older players around if they are making big money.

The formula is simple: Age + Salary = Production or goodbye. A slight drop in play will send an over-30 player with a big cap number on his way.

The exception? Quarterbacks.

"You can't afford them anymore," said one NFC personnel director. "You don't go from starter to bench. You go from starter, a high-priced starter, to being cut. That's what the cap has done."

In most professions, 30 is just a pup. In the NFL, you're on your way out. The cruel reality of that has never been more apparent than it is now. And we wonder why guys sometimes lie about their age?

Now here's a quick look at the 17 big-name players let go last week for cap reasons. All except Dyson are at least 30.

La'Roi Glover, DT, Cowboys: He is a penetrating defensive tackle who was once one of the better pass-rushing inside players in the NFL. But at 31, he isn't the same player. He started much of last season, but lost his job late. Six years ago he had 17 sacks for the Saints. He has had 15 the past three years, just three last season.

Ty Law, CB, Jets: He just turned 32 and he's coming off a 10-interception season for the Jets that earned him a Pro Bowl berth. The book on him is that he didn't play nearly as good as the 10 picks would make one believe. The Jets, who were in serious cap trouble, let him go rather than pay a $10 million roster bonus. Wouldn't you? For a one-year deal, he might be worth a look for a corner-needy team. Pay him more than that, and you're asking for trouble.

Lawyer Milloy, S, Bills: He is 32 and simply doesn't run as well as he once did. He has three interceptions the past four years after having 19 in the first six. That says something about a guy. Safeties lose it quickly.

Sam Adams, DT, Bills: When motivated and in somewhat decent shape, he can still be a force against the run. The problem is he gets fat and lazy. His play tailed off in a big way last year when he feuded with Bills coaches. He is worth a look as a role player, maybe on a one-year deal. Anything more than that is risky.

Kevin Mawae, C, Jets: This 35-year-old played in just six games last year after tearing a triceps muscle. The Jets simply could not afford to pay a player coming off injury at his age the type of money he was due. He might still have a year or two left, but that's it.

Sam Madison, CB, Dolphins: Madison was once one of the better cover corners in the league. But age has eroded his ability some, and he has just two interceptions in the past two years. At 31, he still has the smarts to play the position, even if he has slowed some.

Eric Warfield, CB, Chiefs: The newest member of the 30-year-old crew, Warfield started 10 games last year after missing the first four when he was suspended by the league. He has always been a major tease for the Chiefs, a guy who looked the part but never lived up to it.

Shawn Barber, LB, Chiefs: The Chiefs signed him three years ago as an unrestricted free agent and he was a major disappointment. He had a decent first season for the Chiefs, but injuries limited him to 11 games the past two seasons. At 31, coming off a three-game season, he wasn't worth the money to keep around. Speed was his thing, too. Now that's he's older, he's slowing down.

Dexter McCleon, CB, Chiefs: He opened the 2005 season as a starter in place of Warfield, but when Warfield came back McCleon went to the bench. He turns 33 in October. That's really old for a corner.

Andre Dyson, CB, Seahawks: The baby of our 17 at 26, Dyson started six regular-season games, a playoff game and the Super Bowl last season for the Seahawks. He has never been a great player, but solid. He will get some looks on the open market because of his age.

Jamie Sharper, LB, Seahawks: After being let go by the Texans last spring, Sharper played just eight games for Seattle before suffering a season-ending injury. His best football seems a while ago, which is why at 31 he will be lucky to get anything more than a 1-year deal.

Ted Washington, DT, Raiders: The massive tackle is the oldest of the group at 38. Washington has excelled as a huge player in the middle of the defense, his bulk enabling him to anchor the run. That's all he does, though. That's too one-dimensional for anything more than a one-year deal for the minimum. He has been in a two-year decline.

Jason Fabini, T, Jets: The book on him the past couple of years is that he has lost something. Injuries limited him to nine games last season, but his skills started eroding before that. At 31, he could still be worth a look if he can stay healthy.

Isaac Bruce, WR, Rams: He will turn 34 in October and the word is he's slowing down. Bruce played only 10 games last year because of injury and caught just 36 passes. He has been with the Rams his entire career, and if the team can work out a restructured deal in the next couple of days, he'll stay there. But if not, he's out.

Trevor Pryce, DT, Broncos: He had four sacks last year, which isn't good enough for a defensive end with a cap hit of $10.2 million. He is still a good player, but just not as good as that number. At 30, he'll get some play.

Brentson Buckner, DT, Panthers: At 34, his skills are starting to erode. He isn't the same power player he was a few years ago. Somebody in need of a veteran tackle will still give him a look.

Stephen Davis, RB, Panthers: He has started 13 games the past two years and injuries have hurt him in a big way. At 32, his career is probably over.

http://www.sportsline.com/nfl/story/9287956
 
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