Tuesday, March 8, 2011
Age before beauty in the NFC West
By Mike Sando
The NFL draft provides teams an opportunity to get younger.
Invariably, older players wind up playing extensively when injuries strike and/or some of those youngsters prove not quite ready for the big leagues.
In Arizona last season, 36-year-old Bryan Robinson made 16 starts at nose tackle even though the Cardinals used a first-round choice for the position.
In San Francisco, 36-year-old tackle Barry Sims started at least seven games for a third consecutive season, proving valuable when a broken leg sidelined Joe Staley.
In St. Louis, James Hall, now 34, and Fred Robbins, who turns 34 this month, started every game and provided stellar play on the defensive front.
In Seattle, strong safety Lawyer Milloy, the oldest non-specialist in the division, collected four sacks while starting 16 games.
Teams will once again add fresh young talent this offseason. Some of the older players will fade away. Others will rise up and produce again.
A few thoughts on the chart, which lists the 20 oldest non-specialists in the NFC West:
- Cardinals guard Alan Faneca is considering retirement. The team has veteran guards in relief, but leadership could be a concern.
- Brandon Stokley immediately showed his value to Seattle as a slot receiver. He also suffered another in a long line of concussions. It's hard not to wince every time he takes a hit.
- Raheem Brock had nine sacks for Seattle. His contract is expiring. The team could use his production and Brock has earned a raise, but to what extent did his performance reflect a contract-year spike? Rewarding an older player following one strong season can be tough for a rebuilding team.
- Arizona's Clark Haggans has a $2.5 million salary and $500,000 roster bonus this season. I'd be tempted to bring him back.
- Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt defended Joey Porter's play, suggesting the veteran pass-rusher played more snaps than anticipated, diminishing Porter's ability to contribute as consistently. That is fair, but Porter surely will not return under his current deal, which carries a $5.75 million salary.
- Takeo Spikes has continued playing well at inside linebacker for the 49ers. Will the 49ers' new staff move on in an attempt to get younger? Seems like Spikes should have value to a new staff in a transition year.
- Another veteran linebacker, Na'il Diggs of the Rams, was playing well last season until suffering a torn pectoral. Looks like the Rams need to make outside linebacker a priority in the draft.
And now, on with the chart ...