Ravens wide reciever Steve Smith, Sr. talks about the excitement of playing with Breshad Perriman, Mike Wallace and Devin Hester. (Kevin Richardson/Baltimore Sun video)
The Ravens open the regular season Sunday against the Buffalo Bills at M&T Bank Stadium with one of the oldest rosters in the NFL.
Jimmy Kempski, who writes for The Philly Voice, put out his annual study of the average age of NFL rosters after each team's cut-down to 53 players last Saturday. At the time, the Ravens had an average age of 26.43 years. Only five teams — the Philadelphia Eagles (26.49), Indianapolis Colts (26.52), Carolina Panthers (26.53), Minnesota Vikings (26.58) and Atlanta Falcons (27.08) — had older initial 53-man rosters than the Ravens, according to Kempski.
But that was before the Ravens re-signed running back Justin Forsett, 30, and added return specialist Devin Hester, 33, while sending defensive tackle Carl Davis, 24, and safety Matt Elam, 24, to injured reserve. Those two moves leave the average age of the Ravens' roster at 26.7 years, which would qualify as the second oldest in the NFL.
As a young cornerback building a career with the Ravens, Lardarius Webb enjoyed the comfort of knowing that whatever happened on the field, free safety Ed Reed was behind him to help the defense make a stop.
Per Kempski's calculations, the average age of the Ravens' roster the past two years was 26.04, which ranked 15th in the NFL in 2015 and 17th in 2014. So after an injury-plagued 5-11 season last year, the Ravens have actually gotten older.
What's the cause of the increase? For one, the members of the Ravens' nucleus are all a year older. They've also added Hester, safety Eric Weddle, 31; wide receiver Mike Wallace, 30; and cornerback Jerraud Powers, 29.
The Ravens pride themselves on maintaining a young roster, but many of team's oldest players are still among their best. That list includes wide receiver Steve Smith Sr., 37; rush linebacker Terrell Suggs, 33; punter Sam Koch, 33; strong-side linebacker Elvis Dumervil, 32; quarterback Joe Flacco, 31; tight end Dennis Pitta, 31; right guard Marshal Yanda, 31; and Weddle.
Ravens officials surely would point out that the team's roster has 10 rookies on it and 24 players in their first three years in the NFL. Rookies Ronnie Stanley and Alex Lewis are expected to start on the offensive line Sunday.
But there's still no denying the Ravens have gotten a little older in many spots. You'd have to think that if they don't return to the playoffs this season, the average age of their roster will drop significantly next year.
The Los Angeles Rams (25) have the youngest roster, followed by the Cleveland Browns (25.08), Green Bay Packers (25.36), Jacksonville Jaguars (25.43) and Denver Broncos (25.47).