When Bob Sanders was released by the Colts last week, I thought interest in him would be relatively luke warm. I know that he was an impact player four years ago, but Sanders has managed only 9 games in the last three seasons. He’s going to be 30, so the chances of a revival are pretty slim.
Last year, I looked at defensive positions and injuries. I was surprised to see that safety (along with inside linebacker) ranked as the worst position in terms of longevity of young star players. 26% of the 50 best young safeties missed at least one-third or more of games played from ages 26-29 (Sanders was not included in that study, since he hadn’t turned 29 when I did it). Over half of the best safeties through age 25 were out of the game by age 30, Sanders’ age next year.
While 30 may not seem old, it is pretty old in football years for a safety who started at a young age and has had injury issues. I don’t see much hope to suggest that Sanders is a good investment for a bounce back. No reasonably comparable safety has missed as many games at the same age as Sanders over the last three years; the safeties with the missed games profile most similar to Sanders at age 28 and 29 were Roy Williams and Mike Brown. Kenny Easley battled injuries at the end of his career and was done by age 29. David Fulcher missed half the games at age 28 and 29; he retired at 30. Dick Anderson of the Miami Dolphins Super Bowl winning teams missed a full season at age 29; he couldn’t come back to form and played two more seasons as a reserve. Gary Fencik is about the only point of hope, as he missed 7 games at age 29 and then was part of the Bears dominating defenses from age 30-32. But missing a total of 7 games due to one injury from age 27 to 29 is a far cry from playing in a total of 9 games.
Still, teams are showing interest (and Donte Whitner is showing interest in their Bob Sanders interest). Sanders has already visited with Jacksonville and Buffalo in the last two days. A few others may jump in the mix. I wouldn’t be willing to do more than a veteran minimum with playing time incentives, but based on the early interest from teams, I’m guessing some teams will bid higher for his services. I just hope they aren’t expecting the 2007 version of Bob Sanders to walk on the field, stay healthy, and play the same way he did then even if he is on the field for more than half the games.
Sanders was a ferocious hitter as an undersized player, but those hits have probably taken their toll. At the “running back” position of the defense, dishing out punishment to bigger players, careers can be shortened. I’m guessing Sanders is going to fit the historic results, and teams shouldn’t expect too much now.
[photo via Getty]