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Patriots field youngest roster in Bill Belichick era

The New England Patriots were the No. 1 seed in the AFC the last two seasons. They came up just short of winning the Super Bowl last year. They are seen as AFC favorites. Their best player, Tom Brady, is 35 years old.

That lends to a perception that the Patriots are a veteran team near the end of their window. (Sorry, Tony Romo.) That perception is not backed up by the numbers.

Greg A. Bedard of the Boston Globe notes that the Patriotsroster's average age is younger than it has ever been in the Bill Belichick era. The average age is 25 years, 274 days. The average age of the starters is 25 years old. Only the 2010 Belichick team is even close to as young as this squad. (The third-youngest team was Belichick's first, rough year in New England.)

The team got much younger when Matt Light retired and Kevin Faulk was not brought back. Guard Brian Waters remains in limbo, and signs don't look promising for his future.

The defense is especially young. The team is counting on rookies Chandler Jones, Dont'a Hightower, and Tavon Wilson. Fourth-year pro Jerod Mayo is one of the most senior members of the defense.

Belichick has not been great bringing in free agents in recent years, but the Patriots excel at self-scouting. It's telling that he felt comfortable enough dumping veteran backups like Deion Branch, Jabar Gaffney, Dan Koppen, Brian Hoyer, and James Ihedigbo.

It was time for this young Patriots team to get playing experience.

Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.

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