The New England Patriots renovating their wide receiving corps this offseason indicated that at least one member from the 2020 unit wouldn’t return.
It turned out to be Julian Edelman, who announced his retirement shortly after it was reported he’d struggle to play next season due to chronic knee pain. The decision came a few days after the Patriots terminated his contract as a result of a failed physical.
It goes without saying the Pats will struggle to replace Edelman, who was a model of consistency at the receiver position for the last decade.
Beyond that, however, New England will also have to replace one of the pillars of their locker room.
Clearly aware that the Patriots would be better off if Edelman was still around the organization, wide receivers coach Mick Lombardi acknowledged it’s going to take some getting used to not having the three-time champ around anymore.
The Patriots replacing Julian Edelman is going to be harder than fans think.
“A guy like Julian whose mental toughness obviously is unmatched — guys who have been in the receiver room here, he’s definitely the poster child for what this place is and what it’s about in terms of work ethic, mental toughness, putting the team first,” Lombardi told reporters on Thursday.
“He really is — he defines the Patriot Way. I think any guy that’s been around him, any guy that has played with him has benefitted from being with him. “I think that’s hard to replace, and guys who are coming in who were able to see what he did like Jakobi (Meyers)…It’s definitely hard to replace a guy like Julian Edelman, because he just was a special person and a special player.”
From 2013 to 2019, Edelman averaged 88.3 catches and 965.5 receiving yards per campaign, to go along with 5.3 touchdowns. He also played 72.5% of the snaps during that span and had a tremendous knack of coming through in the clutch.
Seriously, go search his greatest catches on YouTube. You won’t be disappointed.
While performance is obviously crucial to team success, however, Edelman’s impact off the gridiron was arguably just as important and it’s worth speculating which member of the WR corps, most of whom are newcomers, is going to embrace that leadership role.
Whether it’s a collective effort or someone like Meyers, who, despite his inexperience, looked ready for the challenge last season when he led the Patriots in almost every receiving category after being thrust into a starting role, remains to be seen.
Luckily for New England, however, they got a little taste of life without Edelman last campaign when he missed the final 10 games after undergoing knee surgery. Even before then, he was a non-factor outside of a career performance in Week 2 vs Seattle.
In any event, Edelman is going to be greatly missed on multiple fronts and fans shouldn’t overlook that now that the Patriots have a new-look receiving corps.