Cam Wake turned 36 on Tuesday and we can pretty much guarantee he did not celebrate with a birthday shot or even a slice of cake.
Wake is a aberration, because of how he takes care of himself and his body.
“He’s a physical freak, just the way he takes care of his body, the way he eats, the way he sleeps,” Dolphins coach Adam Gase said during the 2017 season. “Everything he does is all about this, and anything else is irrelevant to him. He sells out 100 percent. He’s put himself in position to do what he’s doing and that’s why age is really irrelevant to him right now.”
But for how long can it remain irrelevant?
Wake is in the final season of his contract, scheduled to count $8.6 million against the cap. That Wake is the ninth-highest cap hit as of now for the 2018 Dolphins is extremely reasonable.
Consider that Ndamukong Suh is scheduled to count $26.1 million against the cap next season. And defensive end Andre Branch is scheduled to count $10 million against the cap, a reward for a strong 2016 season.
Wake notched more than 10 sacks in consecutive seasons for the first time in 2016-17. And in an ideal situation, he would yield some of the work load to Charles Harris in 2018. Not that he’ll do so willingly.
“He’s extremely important,” Gase said. “One, being a guy that’s been around for a long time, he has a veteran presence. Obviously he’s really the heart and soul of what we’re about as an organization. He’s a guy that we want to basically retire here. He shows up every day and comes to work and does his job at the highest level, whether it be out at practice or on game day, whether it’s a meeting or walk through. You wish you had a whole bunch of guys like him. He’s a rare guy.”
During last season, Suh said he believes Wake can make an impact for a few more seasons.
“I definitely think so,” Suh said. “I think definitely Cam can play at a high level for the next two, three years or however long he chooses to continue to play. I think he got a little bit of a late start due to some circumstances that were out of his control, and the way he takes care of his body, the way he’s mentally focused in the game, I think he definitely can play as long he wants to.”
But how realistic is it for Wake to dominate at 36?
Well, let’s look at the NFL’s Top 10 career sack leaders to get a sense.
Among those men, in their age 36 season, the average was 8 sacks.
Is 8 sacks feasible for Wake next season? Sure, why not. He’s averaged 8 over the past 4 seasons.
Among those men, the average final NFL season was age 37.
Are 2 more seasons feasible for Wake? Sure, why not. We’d say maybe even 3 more seasons, if he felt like it.
If you’re wondering, Wake is 42nd on the all-time sack leader list, even though he didn’t begin his NFL career until age 27.
If Wake were to average 8 sacks over 3 more seasons, he’d end up with 116, good for 22nd in league history.
Here’s what the best sackers in NFL history did in their age 36 seasons: Bruce Smith (7), Reggie White (11), Kevin Greene (15), Julius Peppers (7.5), Chris Doleman (12), Michael Strahan (9), Jason Taylor (5), DeMarcus Ware (4), Richard Dent (6.5), John Randle (5.5).
Wake has talked repeatedly about how taking care of his body puts him at an advantage.
“I know what this game takes away from you, physically,” Wake said near the end of last season. “When you sign up, you kind of have to write some body parts off knowing that they’re going to the cause. You look around and you see a lot of these young pups, they really don’t know what they’re getting themselves into probably; but the older guys who do and they’re still doing it and still doing it well, my hat’s off to them.”