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2014 Atlanta Falcons: Youth Movement Won't End After 2013's Failed Season

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2014 Atlanta Falcons: Youth Movement Won't End After 2013's Failed Season
Scott Cunningham/Getty Images
Tony Gonzalez (37 years old) retiring drops the average age of the Atlanta Falcons a good bit.

A youth movement is why the Atlanta Falcons are having a failed 2013 season; however, it's wise to continue the youth movement and accept the growing pains involved with it. It's the only way to end up with a Super Bowl-caliber team again.

The Falcons are currently 4-10, and most of this record can be attributed to missing the best players on the team due to injuries for extended periods of time and the youth movement the Falcons are undergoing.

When Atlanta let go of Tyson Clabo, John Abraham, Todd McClure, Michael Turner, Brent Grimes and Dunta Robinson, they lost a lot of veteran leadership and talent; however, with multiple high draft picks waiting in the wings, the Falcons should have been able to easily replace Clabo, McClure, Grimes and Robinson.

The Falcons have taken their lumps this season because of players not being 100 percent ready to go, but don't expect this movement to end. Atlanta continuing the cuts of older players, targeting free agents 27 or younger and adding seven or eight players through the draft should drop the average player's age even lower.

 

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Don't Be Surprised to See Far-Reaching Cuts

As noted in an article I previously wrote for Bleacher Report, there are 10 options that could easily be let go or not brought back. All 10 of those guys are going to be 30 or older. If the Falcons made those moves and combined them with the likely retirement of Tony Gonzalez, they would have just four players 30 or older on the 2014 roster.

Those four guys would be Roddy White, Harry Douglas, Justin Blalock and Matt Bryant—all crucial, core members of the team. Even those four, however, should have guys brought in who can push and eventually replace them in the long term.

The biggest part of a youth movement is purging the old talent. Atlanta will have easily done that for the 2014 season and beyond if they make these cuts. Unfortunately, some will say that it's cold-hearted of the team to do that.

The NFL is a business, though, and unfortunately for some of these players, a long Atlanta Falcons career will be coming to an end because it just makes sense to go younger, cheaper and, in most cases, more naturally talented.

 

Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Adding someone like the 20-year-old JD Clowney would definitely drop the team's average age.

Another Draft Should Drop the Average Age Even More

Including the current players on injured reserve, the average age of the Atlanta Falcons' roster is 26.31 years old. Taking out the cuts from earlier and adding in seven or eight players who are all 23 years old on average will drop that to younger than 26 years of age. 

For a team that was one of the oldest in the league during the 2012 season, the Falcons would have the youngest roster it has had since the Thomas Dimitroff- and Mike Smith-era began in 2008. While this presents some problems in the form of leadership, it should provide better, less worn out physical talent.

So yes, the Falcons should make changes to have the most talent on the roster. More than that, they should play as much of these young players as possible so they can gain game experience. They will take some lumps, but Atlanta could turn youth into their biggest asset.

 

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Leadership. Matt Ryan be thy name.

What About Leadership?

The biggest question for the Falcons after all the cuts would be who the team's leaders are. That's where Atlanta has truly been wise. While most teams believe you always need veteran leaders, the Falcons have drafted captains with almost every single pick of each draft under Dimitroff.

Their already young talent has leadership just waiting to come out. At each level of the defense, the Falcons could have multiple guys who would be willing leaders.

In the secondary, there are Desmond Trufant, William Moore and Thomas DeCoud. On the line, there are Corey Peters and Malliciah Goodman. At linebacker, Paul Worrilow and Sean Weatherspoon could be very vocal as leaders.

On offense, it's no different.

Sam Baker, Joe Hawley and Justin Blalock are on the line, and Roddy White and Julio Jones are at receiver. In the backfield, as well as the overall team, there's Matt Ryan

The one thing to note is that every single player mentioned here as a leader has never been anything but an Atlanta Falcon. By growing their own talent instead of bringing in outside leaders, the Falcons are finally building a team the right way.

Fans need to be patient with this youth movement, though.

There will be some growing pains in 2014. While the team shouldn't be a four-to-six win team again, don't expect a team that wins 11 or more games either. Atlanta is likely to be a fringe playoff team if they continue this youth movement.

 

All stats used are either from Pro Football Focus' Premium Stats (subscription required), ESPN, CFBStats or the NFL. All contract information is courtesy of Spotrac and Rotoworld.

Scott Carasik is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. He covers the Atlanta Falcons, College Football, NFL and NFL draft. He also runs DraftFalcons.com.

Follow @ScottCarasik

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