Regrettably, Julian Edelman has probably received his last pass and fielded his last punt for the New England Patriots. Julian is a free agent with five years experience who had a breakout year in 2013 as mainly a slot receiver. The 2009 seventh round draft choice has toiled five years at or near the minimum NFL salary, and he now has his first real opportunity to attain a substantial salary commensurate with his ability and 2013 performance.
Edelman surprisingly caught 105 passes, for 1056 yards, and 10.1 yards per catch and 6 touchdowns this past season. He emerged as Tom Brady's go-to receiver in a down year for Patriot receivers with injuries and the raw, and inconsistent rookie play. Edelman's performance, however, was among the top NFL receivers and his punt returns placed also among the best in 2013
One might think that establishing himself as the go-to guy for Brady, it would assure him of a nice fat, long-term contract with a sizable signing bonus and generous guaranteed money. Not likely, however. I can think of three words explaining why: Welker, Belichick, and Amendola.
Welker, even though older, was extremely reliable and a very consistent high level performer, year after year. He also was Brady's go-to guy. But Welker did not get the big, long-term contract.
Edelman is 5 years younger than Welker, and should be in a better position than Welker was, based on age, to command a long term contract with the Patriots. However, the Danny Amendola signing last year was the intended replacement for Wes Welker's slot receiver position. Belichick reacted to the Welker defection to the Broncos by giving the also younger Amendola a 5-year $31 million contract with $10 million guaranteed. Belichick, in my opinion, will not spend that type of money for a second slot receiver.
So Edelman will not be signed before free agency starts and will go on the free market. It is very likely a team in need will offer a better deal than the Patriots are willing to give. Amendola, who played through injury in 2013 will be the primary slot receiver next season. He is a talented receiver and has had a year to learn the system. With the return of good health, he should have a successful year. Any money saved by not signing Edelman can be better spent on signing Patriots' free agents corner back Aqib Talib and running back LeGarrette Blount.
Julian will get his much deserved long-term deal elsewhere, and Tom Brady will lose his favorite receiver for the second year in a row. The Patriots will likely draft or sign another rookie pass receiver for Brady, Chad O'Shay, and Josh McDaniels to “coach up”.