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49ers aging in starting lineup, but plenty of young talent in reserve

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The San Francisco 49ers have one of the older rosters in the league. However, they have several young players that could start to force their way in over the older veterans.

Jamie Squire

There has been a lot of talk this offseason about the fact that the San Francisco 49ers have one of the older rosters in the league. Last week, Rivers McCown from Football Outsiders discussed how even with a young quarterback, age would be an issue for the 49ers. Back in May, Football Outsiders had some discussion on snap-weighted age. In 2013, that ranked the 49ers as the second oldest team in the NFL, and were also second oldest in AV adjusted team age.

The snap-weighted age was among the oldest for several reasons. On offense, they were one of five teams with a starting running back in his 30s, Jonathan Goodwin took virtually all the center snaps, and Anquan Boldin was incredibly important at wide receiver. On defense, 34-year old Justin Smith and 29-year old Ray McDonald took a look of snaps at defensive tackle, 32-year old Carlos Rogers, 28-year old Tarell Brown, and 28-year old Donte Whitner were regular features in the secondary, 28-year old Patrick Willis at inside linebacker, 29-year old Ahmad Brooks was heavily featured at outside linebacker, and 28-year old Glenn Dorsey turned into the starting nose tackle. I realize 28 and 29 do not seem old, and for some players, it is right in the prime of their career. However, in the NFL, that can mean some are getting near the end of things.

As the 49ers move into the 2014 season, they do still have plenty of older players. On defense, their starting lineup will still feature Ahmad Brooks, Justin Smith, Ray McDonald, and Patrick Willis, and will add Antointe Bethea (29). On offense, Anquan Boldin and Frank Gore remain key contributors, and they added Stevie Johnson (28).

However, as we can see in the chart below, there is a lot of young talent either moving into the lineup or in reserve. I took a look at the 49ers entire 90-man roster, and broke down the age of each player, split up into starters and reserves. If you see two ages (for example, Colin Kaepernick (26/27)), the first number represents their age now, and the second number represents their age by the time the Super Bowl gets here. If they only have one number, it means they will not have a birthday until next offseason.

Daniel Kilgore is the most notable potential addition to the starting lineup, with a chance to replace Jonathan Goodwin. And even if Marcus Martin wins the job, the 49ers are still getting younger. Additionally, while Antoine Bethea swaps in for Donte Whitner in terms of age, Tramaine Brock and Chris Culliver could bring down the age at cornerback. Additionally, Jimmie Ward as nickel back will most definitely bring down the age.

Defensive tackle will be an interesting one to track as the 49ers find more snaps for reserves behind Justin Smith and Ray McDonald. The addition of Tank Carradine to the mix is a huge deal for this group. Justin Smith is signed through 2015, and Ray McDonald is signed through 2016. It would not surprise me if one or both was not on the roster in 2015. It could depend in part on how the 49ers do this year. A Super Bowl victory could very well send Justin Smith off into the sunset. We don't know for sure, but that's one possibility.

At outside linebacker, Ahmad Brooks remains a key contributor, but the emergence of Corey Lemonier could cut down on Brooks's snaps this year, and potentially lead to his replacement sooner rather than later. This year, once Aldon returns from any potential suspension, Corey Lemonier could potentially see some work in place of Brooks at certain spots. Brooks will still get the overwhelming majority of snaps, but we could see them cut down a little bit to keep him fresh.

The 49ers are getting older this year, but the chance to rotate in reserves, and replace some starters with younger players puts them in a position to get younger quicker.

McLeod Bethel-Thompson (26)Tank Carradine (25)Michael Crabtree (26/27)NaVorro Bowman (26)Chris Borland (23/24)Jon Baldwin (24/25)Blake Costanzo (30)Tramaine Brock (25/26)Chris Cook (27)Chris Culliver (25/26)Vernon Davis (30/31)Perrish Cox (27/28)Garrett Celek (26)Derek Carrier (23)Asante Cleveland (22)Kenneth Acker (22)Eric Reid (22/23) Anthony Davis (24/25)Antoine Bethea (29)Craig Dahl (29)Alex Boone (27)D.J. Campbell (24)LC McCray (23)Carter Bykowski (24)
Position Starter (Age) Reserve (Age) Position Starter (Age) Reserve (Age)
Quarterback Colin Kaepernick (26/27) Blaine Gabbert (24/25) Nose Tackle Glenn Dorsey (28/29)
Ian Williams (24/25)
Josh Johnson (28)
Kory Faulkner (23/24) Defensive Tackle Justin Smith (34/35)
Ray McDonald (29/30) Tony Jerod-Eddie (24)
Running Back Frank Gore (31) Kendall Hunter (25/26) Demarcus Dobbs (26-27)
Marcus Lattimore (22/23) Quinton Dial (24)
Carlos Hyde (22/23) Mike Purcell (23)
LaMichael James (24/25) Lawrence Okoye (22/23)
Jewel Hampton (24/25) Kaleb Ramsey (25)
Fullback Bruce Miller (26/27) Will Tukuafu (30/31) Outside Linebacker Aldon Smith (24/25) Corey Lemonier (22/23)
Trey Millard (22) Ahmad Brooks (30) Dan Skuta (28)
Aaron Lynch (21)
Wide Receiver Stevie Johnson (28) Chase Thomas (25)
Anquan Boldin (33/34) Quinton Patton (23/24)
Bruce Ellington (22/23) Inside Linebacker Patrick Willis (29/30) Michael Wilhoite (27/28)
Brandon Lloyd (33)
Nick Moody (24/25)
Kassim Osgood (34) Shayne Skov (24)
Chuck Jacobs (24)
David Reed (27)
Devon Wylie (25/26) Cornerback
Jimmie Ward (23)
Tight End Vance McDonald (24)
Darryl Morris (23/24)
Dontae Johnson (22/23)
Keith Reaser (22)
Kevin Greene (24)
Offensive Line Joe Staley (29/30) Adam Snyder (32/33) Safety C.J. Spillman (28)
Joe Looney (23/24)
Jonathan Martin (24/25) Raymond Ventrone (31/32)
Mike Iupati (27) Marcus Martin (20/21)
Daniel Kilgore (26/27) Brandon Thomas (23)
Ryan Seymour (24)
Specialists Phil Dawson (39/40) Colton Schmidt (23/24)
Al Netter (25) Andy Lee (31/32)
Dillon Farrell (23/24) Kevin McDermott (24/25)
Fou Fonoti (22/23)