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Average NFL team is getting younger (i.e. cheaper)

Chicago Bears v Green Bay Packers

GREEN BAY, WI - SEPTEMBER 28: A Chicago Bears fan holds a sign referring to rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky during a game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on September 28, 2017 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The Packers defeated the Bears 35-14. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

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The NFL is getting younger. And not just because of all the coaches who know Sean McVay.

According to research by the Associated Press, the average NFL roster is getting younger, which means older players (who earn more money) are having a harder time finding and keeping jobs.

The study showed that the average experience of a player on an NFL opening-day rosters was 4.6 years in 2005, and was 4.3 this year.

In 2005, there were 784 players with three years of experience or less and 714 with five or more years. This season, there were 852 of the younger ones and 644 of the older ones.

Effectively, that points to the shrinking middle class in the NFL, as teams increasingly choose to pay a few stars, and fill in the roster with cheaper alternatives than guys who have been around.

“You don’t really have a lot of middle-class older guys. It’s actually kind of sad,” Lions safety Glover Quin said.

Players are also vested for the league’s pension plan after three years and three games, so if it’s harder to get to the end of a fourth season, fewer are qualifying.

During the 2006 collective bargaining agreement negotiations, the “minimum salary benefit” was added, which allows teams to sign veteran players to a one-year deal at the league minimum, and for that deal to count less against the cap. Along with the new rookie salary scale implemented in 2011, it was supposed to funnel more money to older players. That hasn’t been the case, however, as older players are being squeezed out.