With Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski in Tampa Bay, does Julian Edelman opt to team up with his two friends down the line or does he retire a Patriot?
Julian Edelman has been New England’s no. 1 receiver ever since Wes Welker left for Denver back in 2013. He beat out Danny Amendola (who was brought in to be Welker’s replacement) for the role of Tom Brady’s most dependable receiver and held onto that title up until this offseason.
Now, due to no fault of Edelman, Brady’s favorite target will most likely be Chris Godwin or Mike Evans. So, the question is where does Edelman go from here?
Jarrett Stidham is an unproven commodity, and it’s easy to see the young signal-caller frustrating the experienced veteran by making the unforced errors due to occur while becoming acclimated to being a starter in the pros.
Edelman is a three-time Super Bowl champion and a Super Bowl MVP. In New England history, he ranks second in receptions (599), fourth in receiving yards (6,507), and ninth in receiving touchdowns (36).
He can become first in franchise receptions, passing Wes Welker (672), with just 74 more receptions.
He’d also pass Welker (7,459) with 953 more receiving yards to become third on the franchise’s receiving yards list — and by catching seven more touchdowns, he would leapfrog Welker (37), Irving Fryar (38), Jim Colclough (39), and Gino Cappelletti (42) to be the Patriots’ fifth-leading player in franchise history for touchdown receptions.
Even though Welker was only in New England from 2007-2012 and Edelman has been with the team since 2009, Welker still has more total targets (926) than Edelman (902).
The 2020 season was supposed to be a staple in Edelman’s career as all of those accolades would have been easily obtainable if Brady was still throwing to him. Can Stidham provide Edelman the ability to keep climbing the all-time franchise ladder?
What would make Julian Edelman consider leaving the Patriots?
Even though I believe Stidham can feed Edelman as he is accustomed to, there is always the chance that Stidham could struggle in his first year as the starter. If that happens, does that lead Edelman to look down at Tampa Bay as a possible second act?
Edelman is 34 years old with two more years left on his current contract. New England does have an out at the end of the 2020 season, as if they were to cut him next offseason before June 1, there’d be just $2.6 million in dead cap space while saving $4million in cap room according to Over The Cap.
We’ve seen Bill Belichick move on from players a year too early rather than a year too late. If Edelman starts to look more like a 34-year-old receiver than a no. 1 option for a young and developing quarterback, then it might not be up to Edelman to decide if he wants to stay in New England.
There’re a few possibilities that can play out: Edelman can shoot his way out by requesting a trade, he can get cut/traded, or he can retire a Patriot on his terms.
Shortly after Brady signed with the Buccaneers, Edelman posted on his Instagram “Foxborough Forever,” implying that he wants to remain in New England for the rest of his career.
That’s how he feels now, but his feelings could always change. He could want to join his best buds in Florida’s warm weather for a title run or two before hanging up his cleats — or maybe go out into free agency looking to cash in one last time.
His age and current contract make Edelman’s future very flexible if he’d so choose — even though he is under contract for the next two seasons, he does have some leverage with his contract being so team-friendly. It’d be easy for New England to cut him, just as it’d be easy for another team to take that contract on via trade.
However, it seems more likely to me that he joins the list of Patriot greats that spent their entire career in New England — legends like Tedy Bruschi, Matt Light, Troy Brown, Jerod Mayo, and Ted Johnson, just to name a few.
There’ll probably be plenty of times during the upcoming season where Julian Edelman will wish he was in Tampa with Brady and Gronk, but ultimately, I think his competitive nature will drive him to finish his career where it started and help develop Stidham into the quarterback of the future for the Patriots.