Predicting Which Declining NFL Veterans Will Be Replaced by Rookies in 2013
Get yourself a jacket, my friend. The NFL is a cold place.
If you aren't producing right now, then you'll be on your arse right away.
There are many different reasons that a veteran can be replaced, but the most common culprit is age and/or cost.
However, sometimes it's strictly about performance.
Click through to see who will be enduring the outside weather next year.
Ray Lewis, ILB, Baltimore Ravens
Time waits for no man. No matter how fearsome or awe-inspring the person may be, there is only so long a player can fight off the inevitable.
Few have gone as many rounds as Ray Lewis, but he won't get up from the latest uppercut.
The numbers don't necessarily back up the notion that Lewis needs to retire. His 57 tackles and one sack through six games puts him on pace for one of his better years.
However, those tackles aren't coming at or behind the line of scrimmage anymore. The slimmed-down Lewis is getting pushed around on a regular basis and can't initiate contact the same way.
Dwight Freeney, OLB, Indianapolis Colts
The Indianapolis Colts are a rebuilding team.
And rebuilding teams don't usually keep expensive veterans around who won't be able to produce when the team peaks in a few years.
This isn't a knock on Dwight Freeney. Despite his injury-riddled season, the 32-year-old defensive end can still have some effect on a contending team.
However, the performance he'll deliver in the future won't be the same as the constant terror that he imposed on the AFC South for most of the 2000s. Occasionally he'll deliver a vintage Freeney performance, but he'll more than likely need to learn to rotate in as a pass-rush specialist.
Kyle Vanden Bosch And/or Cliff Avril, DE, Detroit Lions
Cliff Avril should have taken whatever the Detroit Lions were offering in the offseason, because he is unlikely to garner that type of offer on the free market.
He has seemed to awaken in the past few weeks with three-and-a-half sacks, but the Lions aren't going to slap him with the franchise tag again. Not at the rate they love drafting defensive linemen.
Like Lewis and Freeney, age is catching up to Kyle Vanden Bosch. He's a fan favorite, but his 33 years of life experience make signing him for anything more than the veteran's minimum a scary proposition.
Odds are that both players won't be back next year.
Wes Welker, WR, New England Patriots
Considering the year that Welker is having, he shouldn't come off of his contract demands. Through seven games, the vertically-challenged wide receiver has 54 catches for 688 yards.
Those numbers are worth another franchise tag. As mentioned above, Belichick isn't likely to do it again.
The stockpiling of wide receiver free agents didn't seem to pay great dividends this year. For Pats fans' sake, here's hoping New England turns to the draft for Welker's replacement.
J'Marcus Webb, OT, Chicago Bears
The Chicago Bears can't go another offseason without addressing their left tackle.
They just can't.
The team has too many Super Bowl worthy components to continue wasting time with J'Marcus Webb. He has proven that he can't handle things out there by himself.
It's doubtful that a rookie won't do as "well" as Webb, and why not try a cheap, talented replacement?
Otherwise, the continued parade to the quarterback is not going to end well for Jay Cutler and the Bears.
John Abraham, DE, Atlanta Falcons
John Abraham has enjoyed a stirring comeback in his heavyweight bout with Father Time. But the Atlanta Falcons can't afford to keep trotting out the old-man defensive end.
Through six games, Abraham has notched an impressive six sacks. It should be noted, however, that three of those sacks came against the lowly Oakland Raiders.
The Falcons are extremely close to a Super Bowl title. If they don't address that defense soon, the window of opportunity will close much like the Philadelphia Eagles' window did in the early 2000s.
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