The Detroit Lions are one of the youngest teams in the NFL. They entered the regular season with the 11th-youngest roster, but as ESPN’s Bill Barnwell pointed out over the weekend, practically speaking, it’s actually even younger.
Barnwell took everyone’s roster by age and weighted it by snap counts. In essence, he’s figuring out the average age of the roster based on who is actually playing in the games. And as it turns out, through eight games, the Lions have the sixth-youngest roster, with an average age of 26.4.
How does this relate to the trade deadline? It highlights where the Lions are in their development and what this front office values. For one, it’s a pretty clear sign that at 6-2 with one of the youngest rosters in football, Detroit’s window is just now opening and should be open for a while. Additionally, it shows just how much the Lions want youth on their team and trust their coaches to develop talent.
Now look at where some of the teams who were active at the trade deadline rank on Barnwell’s list:
Snap-adjusted age so far for 2023— Bill Barnwell (@billbarnwell) November 4, 2023
Five oldest teams: Saints, Eagles, Broncos, 49ers, Raiders
Five youngest teams: Packers, Giants, Bears, Colts, Cardinals pic.twitter.com/T8CrN9gNNP
Both the Eagles and the 49ers—arguably the two most active players at the trade deadline—are among the four oldest teams. You could certainly make the argument their window is closing a bit (although with Jalen Hurts at quarterback, Philly probably isn’t going away soon).
That isn’t to say the Eagles’ or 49ers’ way of building is wrong. There are multiple ways to build a team, and in order to stay relevant and competitive for years—as both franchises have—sometimes the team-building strategy has to evolve.
But look at another major contender: the Kansas City Chiefs. They’re sitting pretty with the Lions as the seventh-youngest team. And what do you know? They were just as inactive as Detroit at the deadline, making just a modest trade for Mecole Hardman via a swap of late-round picks. One could say it was essentially an identical move to the Lions’ Donovan Peoples-Jones trade.
You didn’t really need to look at this chart to explain why the Lions were modest at the trade deadline. General manager Brad Holmes essentially spelled it out for us after announcing that the trade for Peoples-Jones was all they intended on doing at the deadline.
“Every team has a different plight, every team is in a different place, different direction, different phase in their team building,” Holmes said last Tuesday.
And that’s the consistent message the Lions have been giving since Holmes and coach Dan Campbell took over. They’re prioritizing youth, they have a long-term plan in place, and they have no intentions of straying from that plan. And as a young, hopeful team just getting started, selling major assets for short-term benefit just isn’t congruent with that plan at this stage. Or, in Campbell’s words:
“Brad and I said from day one, man we have a plan in place that we don’t want to alter, we don’t want to mess with that, and we’re in year three of this right now, our beginning of year three, and everything had to be right. It had to be the right player, it had to be the right fit and it had to be the right price, all three of those and that’s not an easy thing to do, but that’s how we look at it.”