Age is only a number, or is it?

Browsing the Internet on a slow Friday afternoon, I spotted an article on ESPN.com in which Mel Kiper lists a couple veterans at each position, and discusses how each team could find a possible long-term solution behind that player through the draft.

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Perhaps not surprisingly, Kiper has three Ravens on his list - wide receiver Derrick Mason, linebacker Ray Lewis and safety Ed Reed - which is more than any other team except the Steelers and Vikings, who also have three players listed.

That begs the question - are the Ravens getting too old?

When you scan the Ravens' starting lineup from the 2010 season, you find a number of what the team calls "plus-30" guys.

Mason, Lewis, Reed, center Matt Birk, wide receiver Anquan Boldin, defensive tackle Kelly Gregg and defensive end Cory Redding are all 30 or older.

You also find a nice mix of younger talent at key spots throughout the roster. Quarterback Joe Flacco, running back Ray Rice, offensive linemen Michael Oher, Ben Grubbs and Marshal Yanda, cornerback Lardarius Webb, and all there members of the inside linebacker rotation (Jameel McClain, Dannell Ellerbe and Tavares Gooden) are all 26 or younger.

That suggests that, overall, there is a nice balance of veterans and younger guys who will be contributing for years to come.

"You're always wanting to get younger. That's inevitable," head coach John Harbaugh said recently. "Personally, I like a good mix of veterans and youth, and I think as a veteran, the mentoring trains the younger guys how to be pros. After three years here working with this team, the dynamic we've built with our team, I see our veterans really teaching the young guys how to do it and how to be Ravens.

"I think you have that mix, but you're right, you've always got to have that turnover."

The concern here - if there is one - is that the guys nearing retirement age are ones who have helped drive their respective units for years.

Lewis and Reed are the heartbeat of the defense, and Mason has been the emotional leader of the offense the last handful of seasons. It's good to get younger, but at the same time, the Ravens would surely love to have a productive Reed, Lewis and Mason for a few more years.

Fans might have a concern that the Ravens' window with those three is closing, but general manager Ozzie Newsome expects Lewis, Reed and Mason back in 2011 and is confident that the Ravens will be able to fill their roles when they eventually decide to retire.

"We know they're going to get a year older," Newsome said. "But when you look at the makeup of our football team, for every older veteran that we have, we've got some young guys that will potentially be able to play those roles when those guys move on."

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