The top ten safeties played pretty well in their thirties
Okay, for those maniacs who just watch the NFL Red Zone and want everything cut to the bone, here’s Ufford’s case. He compares Thomas to the ten safeties with the highest career value since 1980. Don’t worry what he based it on; you just wanted the bare bones, remember? Ronnie Lott is number one and Steve Atwater is number ten. That should tell you it’s a legitimate group. For the full chart and some great comments, go read his article. As Ufford writes, “The number of excellent seasons for safeties in their 30s is staggering.” He goes on to list the accomplishments of Lott and Ed Reed after the age of thirty:
"At age 32, in his first season with the Raiders, Ronnie Lott led the league in interceptions and posted an AV of 13. At age 34, he recorded 123 tackles and had an AV of nine. From age 28 to age 34, Ed Reed posted seven consecutive seasons with an AV of at least 11, leading the league in picks at age 30 and 32."
It’s worth noting that both Lott and Reed missed big chunks of two seasons and came back to finish strong. Lott missed 18 games over four seasons, then missed just one of his last four years in the league. Reed missed 10 games in two years, but bounced back to play in every game over the next to seasons. That’s a factor that supports his position that the Seahawks are overthinking Earl Thomas and his recent injuries.
However, Troy Polamalu is just as valid a case study for Seattle. He missed 11 games at the age of 28, and two more the following year. He had one of his best seasons ever at age thirty – and had one good season out of his final three. John Lynch had one of his best seasons at age 31, and came nowhere close to that performance the following five seasons. He made the Pro Bowl in four of those years, but his average value (AV) – which is the basis of Ufford’s ratings – was about half of his peak years. He wasn’t nearly as effective after the age of 31.