The Graybeards are here ... and they won't go away until you get off their damn lawn.
Yes, your favorite fake team of players currently unattached to a real team is back. For the ninth straight year, I've dug through our database to build a roster that can compete against the best the league has to offer.
Here's your annual reminder that the Graybeards are so much more than your basic "Best Remaining Free Agents!" article. This is about the human condition, people. We place our focus on NFL veterans who have aged out of the desired demographic of most team builders. To be a Graybeard, you must be 30 or older -- either now or by the end of the 2023 season.
Our team motto remains unchanged: Just Win (Sometimes), Baby.
Let's get to it.
*Denotes first-time Graybeards selection.
Here are two 30-year-old quarterbacks whose respective careers appear to be at a crossroads. Wentz, the one-time MVP candidate turned journeyman, and Bridgewater, the likable comeback kid who struggled to stay healthy when given opportunities in Miami. Here we'll turn our fake training camp and preseason schedule into a true competition between the two veterans. May the best man win.
(That faint echo you heard outside our team facility is Cam Newton screaming into the void. Sorry, bud.)
Other players considered: Joe Flacco, Matt Ryan.
Murray stepped into a bigger role in Denver last season after Javonte Williams was lost to a serious knee injury. The vet responded by averaging 4.4 yards per carry while leading the team in rushing yards (703) and rushing TDs (five). A between-the-tackles mauler, Murray will pair well with McKinnon, a versatile performer who scored a whopping 10 touchdowns as Patrick Mahomes' favorite non-Kelce red-zone weapon for the Super Bowl champion Chiefs. I am into this tandem.
Other players considered: Rex Burkhead, Mark Ingram, David Johnson.
Beckham, Landry and Jones are all Graybeards for the second year in a row and in no way is that depressing. If we're being honest, including Julio in this exercise is starting to feel like a stretch, considering his body has essentially turned on him in the final years of his Hall of Fame career. Still, the Graybeards are suckers for name brands and few are bigger at the receiver position in his era than Jones. Hilton flashed a bit in his Dallas cameo, sparking hope there's some lightning left in those legs.
Other players considered: Randall Cobb, Chosen Anderson, Sammy Watkins. (Yes, Sammy Watkins is finally turning 30 years old this summer. It felt like he was 27 for a decade.)
OK, this room is not scaring opposing defensive coordinators. I could throw Rob Gronkowski in here (as I did last year), but that would be intellectually dishonest, given all signs point to Gronk being retired for good. That leaves us with Lewis, our oldest non-special teams Graybeard. Here's an insane stat: Brate has the third-most touchdown receptions in the history of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. That is wild.
Other players considered: MyCole Pruitt, Kyle Rudolph, Eric Tomlinson.
Not bad. The line is anchored by Smith, a Super Bowl champion and Tom Brady's durable blind-side protector during the G.O.A.T.'s three-year run in Tampa Bay. It's a little surprising he's still on the market, given his pedigree. Saffold was blocking for Josh Allen this past season, Jackson isn't far removed from a healthy contract from the Seahawks, while Jones was a rock in Houston and Tennessee for a decade before dealing with concussion issues in 2022. We'll bring in Lewan, a three-time Pro Bowl left tackle in Nashville, and kick him to the right side with the hope he can make the transition. And if it doesn't work out, we can listen to him rip our process on his podcast. #Content is king.
Other players considered: OT Eric Fisher, OT Cameron Fleming, OT George Fant, C Rodney Hudson, C Connor McGovern, OT Jason Peters, OG Greg Van Roten, OG Justin Pugh.
This is a nice group that will give opposing quarterbacks trouble. Clowney has never matched his lofty draft promise, but was a steady all-around player before a lost final season in Cleveland. Floyd still plays solid run defense and has posted at least nine sacks in each of the past three seasons. Clark has been named to the Pro Bowl in three of the past four seasons and ranks third all-time in postseason sacks. Houston sticks his thumb in the eye of Father Time every fall.
Other players considered: Bud Dupree, Melvin Ingram III.
My lunch-pail bros are back at the construction site. Jefferson appeared in all 17 games for the Seahawks this past season, setting career highs in sacks (5.5) and tackles for loss (six). Harris was quiet in his one year in Seattle, but tied career highs with six sacks and 11 quarterback hits as a Bronco in 2021. Ioannidis is a longtime starter, while Suh is a legacy pick who will look menacing and impressive on the cover of our media guide.
Other players considered: Michael Brockers, Akiem Hicks, Linval Joseph.
A one-time standout in Minnesota, Barr is now a rotational piece who could still wreak some havoc in the right setup. Golden has quietly piled up 47 sacks in a solid career. (He also has his own logo, which is always appreciated around these parts.) Pec injuries have messed with Bostic in recent years, but he's a solid veteran and an excellent human. Every team needs a glue guy who will untangle any disputes at the locker room ping-pong table.
Other players considered: Neville Hewitt, Kyle Van Noy.
Peters might have lost a step and some playmaking ability after a 2021 ACL tear, but the veteran still held his own in a starting role last season. Callahan looked revitalized playing in the slot for the Bolts in 2022. Jones would be a solid addition, though it's possible lower-body injuries have derailed his career. Jackson is a former first-round pick who was acquired by Pittsburgh last November in a deadline deal but never played a snap for the Steelers due to a back injury.
Other players considered: Troy Hill, Jason Verrett, Bradley Roby.
Amos set a career-high with 102 tackles last season in Green Bay, but also yielded 12 touchdowns with a 103.8 passer rating in coverage since 2021. This feels risky. Harmon worked his way into the lineup for the Raiders last season and became one of the success stories on an otherwise disappointing unit.
Other players considered: Rodney McLeod, Logan Ryan, Kareem Jackson, Daniel Sorensen.
What a gift from the Kicker Gods. Gould, now 40 years old, was reliable as ever in his final season with the Niners, hitting 27 of 32 field goal attempts (84.4%) and 50 of 51 extra-point attempts. Let's not forget his postseason résumé, which is beyond reproach: Gould is 29-for-29 on field goals and 39-for-39 on PATs. How is this guy still on the market? Ageism, I say.
Other players considered: Mason Crosby, Ryan Succop, Randy Bullock, Brett Maher.
Another 40-year-old man with a golden boot. We'll put Andy and Robbie in adjoining hotel rooms during road trips so they can compare their Little League lineups.
Other players considered: Nobody. Andy Lee or bust, baby!
- HEAD COACH: Wade Phillips
- OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Greg Roman
- DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Rex Ryan
- SPECIAL TEAMS: Position kept vacant until Mike Westhoff's return.
The NFL is just better when Wade Phillips is around, so apologies to the XFL's Houston Roughnecks, but we're bringing the coach back to the big leagues. Roman played a major role in Lamar Jackson's 2019 MVP season and just turned 50 (the minimum age on the Graybeards coaching staff). Rex has been in a TV studio for several years, but his interview for the Broncos' DC post tells you he wants back in. Let the Graybeards be a G-D snack before the meal that is an actual sideline return. Westhoff is a legendary crank whose recent book was titled Figure It Out: My Thirty-Two-Year Journey While Revolutionizing Pro Football's Special Teams. Epic humblebrag!
I'm not crazy about our QB room, while linebacker and secondary are major areas of concern. On the positive side, I think we'll be able to run the ball with our line and get to the quarterback with our generous stable of pass rushers. Throw in some late-game heroics from Gould and we're going to surprise some teams. Some teams.
RECORD PROJECTION: 6-11