Looking closer at the Patriots' age

The New York Times' "Fifth Down" blog takes a closer look at the age of each team's 2009 NFL roster, which is topical in New England as one of the prevalent questions from this week's Patriots mailbag was, "Are the Patriots, with 24 draft picks over the last two years, too young to be considered a contender?"

On the "Fifth Down" blog, Chase Stuart of ProFootballReference.com explains how he computes the average age of each team. He breaks it down by offense and defense, and focuses on "functional age", targeting the more relevant players on the roster.

In doing so, the 2009 numbers show that the Patriots were the league's oldest offense (average age: 28.7). That makes sense when considering that quarterback Tom Brady (32) and receiver Randy Moss (turned 33 in February) lead the way, while the team has three running backs over 30 (Fred Taylor, Sammy Morris, Kevin Faulk) and an offensive line with veterans Matt Light, Dan Koppen and Stephen Neal.

"The Patriots’ offense has gotten long in the tooth," Stuart writes. "From 2006 to 2009, the Patriots drafted 17 offensive players but whiffed on most of those picks; RB Laurence Maroney has been the most productive member of that group to date, but most have classified his career thus far as disappointing. ... New England then signed elder statesmen Torry Holt and Alge Crumpler in the off-season. On opening day, it’s conceivable that the Patriots will field a lineup with an average age of 32.3 years..."

Stuart then notes some of the offensive players the Patriots have drafted over the last two years, pointing out that the team "is at least trying to inject some youth into its offense. Doing so should extend Tom Brady’s career and keep the Patriots’ window of opportunity open longer."

Meanwhile, the Patriots' defense had an average age of 27.5, according to Stuart's formula. That ranked in the middle of the NFL pack in 2009, tied for 18th.