For the last few years, the Patriots have had the oldest roster in the entire NFL. As it currently stands, there are 15 players at least 30 or over.
Some will not make the team come September, but the list of tenured Patriots retiring sooner than later is becoming quite lengthy.
Fortunately for Belichick, most of the team’s offense is younger players in no need of replacement soon. With an emphasis on offensive improvement in this year’s draft, Belichick has ensured his quarterback will be surrounded with young talent for years to come.
But there are a few aging players to pay attention to, especially given the importance of their positions;
- James Ferentz – OL (33): Since his original signing with the Patriots in 2018, James Ferentz has spent much of his time rotating between the practice squad and the 53-man roster. He brings the flexibility to the offensive line that the Patriots have needed in recent years, as he can play both the center and left guard positions. That type of skill is not easy to replace. As the roster stands right now, only rookie, Kody Russey or newly acquired Darryl Williams appear as possible suitors to replace Ferentz when the time comes.
- Brian Hoyer – QB (36): With Jarrett Stidham’s trade to the Las Vegas Raiders, Brian Hoyer has moved up to the official backup QB spot once again. He will continue to be who New England turns to if Jones gets injured or can be taken out of a game. He will surely end up in some coaching or mentorship role at some point in the future. With Mac Jones as their QB going forward, Bill Belichick made a choice to draft another young QB, Bailey Zappe, in this year’s draft. Zappe can develop into a reliable backup for Jones and replace Hoyer at some point.
- James White – RB (30): The Patriots are stacked at running back currently, but James White is the best pass-catching back they have. He will return to the field in 2022 after missing nearly all last season due to a season-ending hip injury, making his full potential for the upcoming season a bit questionable. A genuine replacement hasn’t been made apparent, regardless of the success Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson have had in their short careers. Neither has shown to be as reliable as pass catchers. But the selection of Pierre Strong Jr. in this last draft could be the answer, as he had a successful college career on the ground and catching footballs.
The Patriots’ defense continues to be the oldest unit on the team. Therefore, the need to acquire players to eventually become replacements for those retiring or whom Belichick will choose to move on from will likely be stressed this season.
It appears Belichick is well on his way to adapting new philosophies as both a coach and a GM. The 2022 draft class spoke volumes regarding the team’s value on getting younger at each position. It was clear that was near the top of the list.
In keeping up with the changes within the game of football, especially the NFL, don’t be surprised if some players on this list are replaced sooner than originally anticipated.
- Malcolm Butler – CB (32): Making his unimaginable return to Foxboro this year, Malcolm Butler has a lot to prove. It’s clear from the past what Butler is capable of, but now in his 30s, things could look different. Before his announced retirement, his last season with the Titans was one of the best of his career. If the Patriots choose to keep him beyond the upcoming season, they have a few options at RCB for those who succeed him. Shaun Wade and rookie Jack Jones could develop into the type of player the secondary needs. More development would be needed with Wade to see if he can play on the outside, opposite of his current experience. And Jones is already being touted as a possible J.C. Jackson type of player. However, both could work out well long term.
- Carl Davis Jr. – DL/DT (30): The defensive line is not short on talent, making it much less dire for the team to find replacements. Carl Davis hasn’t spent much time in New England thus far, but neither has his most likely replacement. Davon Godchaux makes the most sensible choice if the Patriots move on from Davis. But also have depth at the position from this year’s draft class (Sam Roberts, LaBryan Ray) if need be.
- Cody Davis – DB (33): As an essential piece of the current special teams unit, Cody Davis’ absence would leave a lot to fill in. As the roster stands today, there is no true player to take over his spot. But given the success Belichick has had with ST and finding outstanding performers, he will likely find a free agent to sign who could become a star player.
- Lawrence Guy – DL (32): The DL is stacked with young talent that could easily slide into a previous veteran’s spot when needed. Lawrence Guy has been with the team since 2017 and has moved between the DT and DE positions. Although he’s signed through the 2024 season, Christian Barmore has shown he can easily take the reigns even now. Barmore has already made an impact in his one year spent in New England and gives the defense a solid option on the DL.
- Devin McCourty – DB/FS (34): Coming into his 13th season in New England, Devin McCourty has given a lot to the Patriots organization over the years. He exemplifies the meaning of versatility and leadership while continuing the tradition of “the Patriot way.” Before the season begins, McCourty will have a birthday, making him one of the oldest players on the team. There are options regarding who can step into the DMac role, but the most prominent name is Adrian Phillips. He has shown to be the more multi-faceted choice, which may make him an intriguing fit.
- Adrian Phillips – DB/FS (30): Since joining the Patriots in 2020, Adrian Phillips has become a pillar in the team’s secondary. His versatility has been on full display throughout his career, spending time all over the secondary and on special teams. Kyle Dugger appears the most probable replacement, given his current position and his experience within special teams. But he will undoubtedly need more development and proven versatility to restore what would be lost in Phillips’ absence.
- Terrance Mitchell – CB (30), Henry Anderson – DE (30): Because both Mitchell and Anderson have yet to either play for the Patriots or make an impact, a succession plan is not for either player specifically at this time.
The special teams unit has almost always been the shining star of the Patriots under Belichick, which will continue this upcoming season.
With some of the more notable members of special teams getting older and some are said to be considering retirement recently, finding their replacements becomes of the utmost importance.
- Justin Bethel – DB (32): Placing players on special teams has always seemed easy for Belichick, as the unit has always been the team’s standout. But it may not become so simple in the upcoming years, particularly replacing a guy like Justin Bethel. He currently sits as the top name to take Matthew Slater’s reign, but the same can’t be said in replacing Bethel. If he can continue his high-performance ability over the next two years of his contract, Belichick will have more time to find a new ST star.
- Joe Cardona – LS (30): Coming up on his eighth season with the Patriots, Joe Cardona stands alone as the only long snapper currently rostered. Because there is generally no risk of injury at this position, a player is subbed in if ever needed. Therefore, Belichick will need to find Cardona’s replacement via trade or the draft.
- Nick Folk – K (37): Belichick has struggled since the release of Stephen Gostkowski to find the team’s new kicker. Since Nick Folk was signed during the 2019 season, he has outperformed any expectations, forcing the team to keep him around. Due to his age, it is crucial to find his rightful replacement as soon as possible. After the release of second-year kicker Quinn Nordin, the Patriots signed Tristan Vizcaino from the LA Chargers. At only 25-year-old, his limited NFL experience is not ideal. But he gives the position much-needed depth and the possibility of finding their kicker for the future.
- Matthew Slater – WR/ST (36): Is it genuinely possible to replace a player like Matthew Slater? That’s the real question. Because he has toyed with the idea of retirement over the last few years, the Patriots need to find themselves someone who can become the backbone of the ST unit. The impact Slater has had on the whole team makes Belichick’s task incredibly difficult when trying to find his replacement. But a strong candidate could easily be Justin Bethel. Although he is also on this list, Bethel is signed through the 2023 season. His experience and noteworthy success make him the best choice to succeed Slater, even as soon as next season.
Names That Will Join The 30 Club This Season
Staying on-brand as the oldest team on average in the NFL, the Patriots also have a few players that have birthdays leading up to (or during) this upcoming season.
- David Andrews – C – Will be 30 on July 10th: Even though he is signed through the 2024 season, the Patriots need to work on adding depth and eventual replacement for their center David Andrews. As the team currently stands, their only options are rookie Kody Russey or OL/C combo player Darryl Williams. Neither has experience with the Patriots nor have they played in an NFL game. But both players are young in life and their careers, making them eligible candidates to become Andrews’ replacement.
- Matthew Judon – OLB – Will be 30 on August 15th: As one of the newest members of the Patriots roster, there isn’t much concern regarding Matthew Judon’s performance or age. His production for the Patriots in his first year alone is something the defense has been lacking for several years. Because he is signed through the 2024 season, there hasn’t been much emphasis on developing his specific replacement. But a name to watch out for in that regard could be Josh Uche, who has shown good pass-rush abilities thus far in his short career.
- Harvey Langi – ILB – Will be 30 on September 24th: Given his current position on the defensive depth chart, it’s possible Harvey Langi will not make the Patriots roster come September. He sits behind Ja’Whaun Bentley and newcomer Mack Wilson and will likely compete with guys like Raekwon McMillan and Cameron McGrone throughout the summer. Langi, of course, adds the veteran confidence that any good defense needs. But the LB room is packed with a lot of young and upcoming talent, making it much easier for Belichick to develop his next defensive star.
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