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New England Patriots Analysis: Julian Edelman deal dirt cheap, incentive-laden

The New England Patriots re-signed free agent wide receiver Julian Edelman to a one-year deal on the same day that they offered a one-year, $2.5 million deal to Pittsburgh Steelers restricted free agent wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders. The Patriots are looking for ways to evolve their offense in what has been a youth movement at the wide receiver position this offseason, and both Sanders and Edelman have the ability to play both in the slot and outside (same with Danny Amendola and even Aaron Hernandez).

Julian Edelman is now the only wide receiver of significance on the Patriots to have played for the team last season, and his deal with the Patriots is as cheap as they come. Per Field Yates of ESPN Boston, Edelman will not be getting any guaranteed money during his one-year term for the 2013 season, and the maximum value of the contract is a meager $1.15 million.

I highly doubt Edelman even gets to that total, because that would mean catching at least 70 passes in 2013. Only the most optimistic person on Edelman’s health and future development would tab him for those kinds of numbers. Aaron Hernandez, Rob Gronkowski, and Amendola are the three players guaranteed to be options ahead of Edelman in the passing game, and Emmanuel Sanders will be too if the Pats are able to bring him into Foxboro.

The base salary for Julian Edelman next season is set at $715,000, and that base salary would actually be at $383,000 if Edelman hits the injured reserve again. This deal is as team-friendly as it gets, and it is almost as incentive-laden as it gets. The Patriots are very cautious given Edelman’s history with injuries, so this deal is set up perfectly with the thought of Edelman’s seven missed games in 2012 held in mind (seven in the regular season, nine missed if you count the postseason). So really, Edelman would make next to nothing ($433,000) if he isn’t healthy.

The Patriots included a $50,000 workout bonus in the deal, but the most significant bonuses are incentives for receptions. If Edelman catches 30 passes, then he gets $30,000. 40 receptions nets $70,000, 50 gets him $120,000, 60 yields $180,000, and a highly unlikely benchmark of 70 receptions will pay out Julian Edelman $250,000.

Last season, Edelman had 21 receptions, and his career high is 37 receptions. Yeah, I doubt Edelman gets himself more than $120,000. He can net himself quite a bit of coin if he can stay healthy, because Edelman will be productive if healthy. As we saw against the Indianapolis Colts and New York Jets in November last season, Edelman can make big plays when finally utilized correctly by the Patriots as more than just a slot receiver on short routes. Edelman’s long speed has improved by leaps and bounds, and it is clear now that the Patriots coaching staff and front office have taken notice of this marked improvement over the past year.

Edelman never received much interest on the free agent market due to his injury, and only the New York Giants even showed interest in him. They brought him in for a visit but pretty much shut him out afterwards. The New England Patriots always represented the best opportunity for Julian Edelman, and that’s due to more than just continuity reasons and Tom Brady‘s presence. The Pats know how to use Edelman best, and he is also stepping into a less crowded situation at wide receiver. Even if the Patriots do reel in Emmanuel Sanders, Edelman is headed for a bigger role in 2013.

That is, of course, if Edelman can finally manage to stay healthy. He broke his hand early in the 2012 season, and then he later broke his foot just when things were starting to click. Health will always be a big question with Edelman (unless if he can finally quell those concerns by consistently staying healthy in the future), and the Patriots have a financial answer to any injuries with a deal that is extremely cheap, filled with “outs”, and also filled with incentives to reward Edelman if he can stay healthy (and thus, productive). This deal was supposed to be team-friendly and cheap, so it’s no shock that his base salary is at $715,000. However, the way the Patriots constructed the rest of the deal is worthy of the praise I am giving them, but we can’t go too far overboard. This is the standard that the Patriots have set, and I hope Edelman can vault himself into a position to land a better deal with a healthy 2013 campaign.

You can follow Joe Soriano on Twitter @SorianoJoe.

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Tags: Julian Edelman New England Patriots NFL Free Agency

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