You may have read in various places that the 2014 New England Patriots were either the youngest or second-youngest team to ever win a Super Bowl. That number comes from averaging the age of every player on the Patriots' roster, but that methodology doesn't account for the fact that 37-year-old Tom Brady played most of the snaps at quarterback, not 23-year-old Jimmy Garoppolo.
We can do better.
Football Outsiders determines which teams are the oldest and youngest with a metric we call "snap-weighted age," which measures the average age of the players on a team based on which players actually played that season. So, for example, a player with 1,000 snaps counts twice as much as a player with just 500 snaps. For 2014, the oldest team in the league by this method was New Orleans at 27.3 years. And the Patriots were not a particularly young group, ranking as the 10th-oldest (27 years) when we looked at who actually played.
This offseason, for the first time, we decided to create an approximate snap-weighted age estimate for each offense and defense. We analyzed projected starting lineups and created formulas to project the average number of snaps played by lower-round picks based on position. Of course, we can't predict where injuries will force teams to start rookies and other young players. But by looking at where teams added free agents and where they drafted rookies, we can get an idea of which offenses and defenses are building toward the future and which want to win now.
One more very important note: Getting older/younger doesn't necessarily make a team better or worse. (Older teams do perform slightly better based on Football Outsiders' DVOA metrics, but it's a small correlation: 0.15 on offense and 0.17 on defense.) With that in mind, let's look at the five offenses that are built with the future in mind. (You can find the five offenses that are built to win now here.)
We'll touch on the defenses next week.
All player ages listed below are for 2015, based solely on birth year.
2014: 26.5 (23rd-oldest) / 2015, estimated: 25.0 (32nd)
The Rams already had a young offense, but the wholesale rebuild of their offensive line means they're likely to be the youngest in the league next season. Every position up front is getting younger except left guard, still handled by Rodger Saffold (27). The overhaul started midway through 2014 when Greg Robinson (23) replaced Jake Long (30) at left tackle. After the season, the Rams declined to bring back both Scott Wells (34) and Davin Joseph (32). They will be replaced by some combination of third-round rookie Jamon Brown (22), veteran backup Tim Barnes (27) and Barrett Jones (25), a 2013 fourth-round pick who has yet to start an NFL game. And at right tackle, second-rounder Rob Havenstein (23) fills Joseph Barksdale's (26) old starting post.