The Buffalo Bills still have the least homegrown roster in the NFL in 2018.
As of opening day, 19 of the 53 players on the Bills roster were players they drafted or signed out of college. That was fewest in the NFL and way below the league average of 31.
The Bills also still are one of the oldest teams in the NFL – seventh oldest, with an average age of 26.47 years, according to a News analysis of the opening day rosters. The Bills’ starting lineup is tied for 13th oldest.
Buffalo is going in the right direction in terms of building a younger team. On opening day last year, the Bills had the second-oldest roster and the sixth-oldest starting roster.
All of those rankings, coupled with the fact the Bills rank No. 1 by a mile in dead salary-cap space, reflect the challenge the Brandon Beane-Sean McDermott regime face in building the team in their desired image.
With the release of defensive tackle Adolphus Washington on Monday, the Bills have just 15 of their own drafted players on the roster. That’s tied with the New York Giants for fewest in the league.
The most homegrown rosters (with number of players): 1. Cincinnati (46). 2. Baltimore (44). 3. Green Bay (40). 4. Minnesota (37). 5. Dallas (37).
The least homegrown rosters: 32. Buffalo (19). 31. N.Y. Giants (22). 30. Oakland (23). 29. Cleveland (24). 28. Arizona (25).
The oldest teams: 1. Oakland (27.49). 2. Atlanta (26.87). 3. New England (26.79). 4. Carolina (26.72). 5. Arizona (26.69).
The youngest teams: 1. Cleveland (25.19). 2. Cincinnati (25.36). 3 Minnesota (25.45). 4. Dallas (25.49). 5. Jacksonville (25.54). 5. Houston (25.54).
The Bills’ revolving door at the head-coaching position is the biggest reason for the team’s lack of success in retaining its own draft choices. The trading of picks is another, and the lack of success of the Doug Whaley regime are others.
The more homegrown the roster, generally the better. NFL powers such as New England, Green Bay, Minnesota, Pittsburgh, Atlanta and the L.A. Rams all are above the league average (31) in terms of homegrown players on the roster. And Cincinnati and Baltimore, at the top of the list, have track records of organizational success this decade.
Cincinnati also has the most drafted players overall in the NFL – on its own roster and other rosters – at 58. Next with the most drafted players in the league are New England, Green Bay and San Francisco, all at 45.
Relying on the draft is not the only way to win, of course. Free agency, trades and the waiver wire are critical elements of roster building. Defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia is just below the averages for homegrown players with 27 and drafted players on the roster (23, with the average at 24.5).
Likewise, having a roster older than average often is not a bad thing. Players over age 30 are out of the league if they’re not performing at a good level.
The average age of Philadelphia’s starters is second oldest. New Orleans’ starters are third and New England’s eighth.
Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri, age 45, is the oldest player in the NFL and one of only five players at 40 or more as of opening day. Three of the other four are place kickers, and then there is Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, at 41.
The Bills have 12 players age 30 or more, tied for third most in the NFL behind only Oakland (14) and Atlanta (13). Five of those players started the opener – Lorenzo Alexander, Kyle Williams, Vlad Ducasse, LeSean McCoy and Jerry Hughes.
There are 244 players age 30 or more in the NFL this season. Last year there were 243. But a dozen years ago, in 2006, there were 346, three more 30-somethings per team. The reduction is a result of economics. The 2011 NFL collective-bargaining agreement redistributed wealth away from unproven rookies and toward high-performing players in their peak prime, particularly those age 26 to 30.