At 35 years old, Reggie Wayne is in the latter portion of his career. However, his play in the last couple of seasons has been better than his career averages. How many productive years does this future hall of famer have left in him?
A lot has happened to Reggie Wayne in the last few seasons. In the 2 win 2011 season, many thought that his game winning touchdown grab against the Texans was his last at Lucas Oil Stadium. The Colts were able to completely turn around their front office, coaching staff and made major changes towards the player personnel group. Wayne’s play has progressed since that game winning touchdown grab. At his age, it should be regressing. It’s safe to say that young gun Andrew Luck has turned around his career, but his age will get to a point where he just cannot be productive anymore. For Marvin Harrison, that age was 34 and his decline was largely to injuries and the emergence of other receivers like Dallas Clark. Reggie Wayne has never had any injuries… until last season.
During the Week 7 matchup against the Denver Broncos, Reggie Wayne suffered his first major injury with the Colts, as he tore his ACL. He missed the rest of the season. The usual recovery timeline for a torn ACL is anywhere from 6-9 months, depending on the athlete. Even if it takes the full 9 months for Wayne to fully recover, he would be expected to return around this time, and other ACL injuries in the past indicate that athletes can come back and perform at the same level, or in some cases at a higher level. Adrian Peterson tore his ACL, and the following season rushed for over 2000 yards. Tom Brady tore his ACL and the following season came back better than ever. When I spoke to a few people who had torn or partially torn their ACL, they’ve said that the surgery makes their leg even stronger. These are just a few examples that indicate that it’s possible for Wayne to return to his old level after this injury. He’ll have a full training camp, some offseason activities and the entire preseason to prepare him for the regular season. It’s not something that people should be too concerned about.
With the injury as a minor concern, it’s time to look at his age again. Wayne has played 196 games in his career. Harrison played 170 games before regressing, Cris Carter played 229 before regressing and Randy Moss about 188 games before his regression. It varies with a lot of players, but Wayne’s regression could be soon. As mentioned earlier, he’s 35 and it’s very rare that you see a receiver remain productive past those years. These are just a few comparisons (using players like Wayne).
The Colts brought in two new faces to their wide receiver corps this offseason. They first brought in former 1000-yard receiver Hakeem Nicks to play in that #3 role. They also drafted Donte Moncrief, and although he’s more of the longterm answer, it shows that the Colts are thinking of life beyond Reggie.
The final factor is his contract. Reggie Wayne is in the final year of his contract, and he’s not a guarantee to stay after the season. There’s a feasible chance that the Colts retain him on a one-year contract, or they may just move on without him. After the Peyton Manning debacle in 2011, anything can happen. Either way, it’s a short-term contract or retirement for Reggie Wayne, which indicates that there is a chance he could be done after this season.
In conclusion, it doesn’t seem like Reggie Wayne has more than two productive years left in this league, and there’s a chance he could be done after this season. The ACL injury he sustained is one that shouldn’t be worried about. The Colts have made some long-term moves too, indicating that they could be ready to move on without him. As of right now, it’s very hard to project how many productive years he has left, but based on former players similar to Reggie, his contract and the new faces in Indianapolis, it seems like Wayne doesn’t have more than 2 productive years left in Indy. Enjoy it while it lasts!
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