By: Joe Siniscalchi (@Joe_Siniscalchi)
There’s a common saying in football that the NFL stands for “not for long”. In fact, the average NFL playing career lasts about three seasons. Sticking around beyond that, let alone maintaining a high level of play is nothing short of impressive. Over the last few seasons, we have seen an influx of young superstars who are shaping the game and will look to do so for the next decade.
But what about those who have been doing it already? More importantly, those who are not only old, but are still valuable contributors. Most people consider old vets simply as mentors, but there are many that still hold a valuable place on the field.
I decided to make a list of players in their 30s who aren’t letting up anytime soon, or are still playing at a high level. Today, however, I’m focusing just on offense.
QB – Peyton Manning (37 years old) – The guy missed an entire season coming off of four neck surgeries and he still had a 105.6 passer rating to go along with 37 touchdowns and 11 picks. Manning is as steady and reliable as they come, and as long as he’s playing behind Denver’s great offensive line, there’s no reason to think he can start opening day at age 40.
RB – Willis McGahee (31 years old) – McGahee turns 32 at the beginning of the season, and there is a chance he can be cut by the Broncos. However, at 31, he was on pace to have one of his best seasons ever until a compression fracture and a torn MCL prematurely ended his season. The shelf life of a running back in today’s NFL is even smaller compared to other positions, and considering McGahee has been doing it for nearly a decade after one of the most gruesome injuries you’ll ever witness, his success is even more spectacular.
WR – Reggie Wayne (34 years old) – Throw out 2012, when Curtis Painter and Dan Orlovsky were throwing balls to Wayne, and you realize not only does he still have it, but Wayne has had one of the best careers for a wide receiver ever. He’ll turn 35 midseason, but consider this: Since turning 30, Wayne has had three 100 reception seasons, one of his three seasons with double digit touchdowns, and posted his second highest yardage-twice. He has become such a cerebral player, and while his speed has diminished, his precision route running skills, great hands, and ability to read coverage has helped him pick up where his body has begun to fail him.
WR – Steve Smith (34 years old) – Unlike Wayne, Smith still possesses some of the blazing speed he had earlier in his career. There was a time back in 2009 and 2010 that people thought Smith was cooked, but once Jimmy Clausen and Jake Delhomme were out of town, Smith’s fire was restored. Smith has had back to back 1,000 yard seasons since Cam Newton came to Charlotte, and has held his two highest yards per catch mark both seasons. Smith is still very good at this point in his career, but he would be better if the Panthers got some help opposite of him to take some coverage away.
TE – Tony Gonzalez (37 years old) – Gonzo is the Mariano Rivera of the NFL. He ages like a fine wine, and is the model of consistency and productivity. Since turning 30, he’s had no fewer than 70 receptions, 5 touchdowns, and toss aside a “down year” of 656 receiving yards, his lowest total since was 867 yards. While I personally think he should’ve retired, he still has one more season in him and will continue to be a big part of the Atlanta Falcon’s chase to the Super Bowl.
Stay tuned for my next part, where I highlight the oldest players along the offensive line.