The Julian Edelman Situation
The Patriots should sign this man
The Patriots and Julian Edelman work well together. I think that much is clear. Despite Edelman’s free agent status, I think most football folk would agree that both parties would benefit from a continuation of their five-year relationship. Of course, we all know that life in professional sports is not that simple. If it was, Ty Law would have played his entire career in New England, Darrelle Revis would still be a Jet and Jacoby Ellsbury would not be wearing pinstripes. No, things don't just happen because they ought to. Stuff gets in the way. Things like pride, ego and sometimes hubris, not to mention the salary cap.
The Edelman story is fairly well known, but I want to mention a few key details. First of all, Edelman has proven to be a very diverse and a very unselfish player. He’s excelled in all roles big and small. He's even played on both sides of the line of scrimmage at times. For an organization that actually talks about having its own “way”, this player, to me, typifies what the Patriots claim they are. To be fair, no amount of sentimentality justifies giving up a big chunk of guaranteed money. Edelman’s worth is not at all limited to the intangible or the feel-good. This guy gets it done on the field. He's a legitimate material asset.
I know the pragmatists are all at the ready with justifications. And, I would agree that there has to be a limit--a number at which the Patriots bow out and move on. I’m not suggesting a blank check. You don’t get ahead by spending stupid money, not even for a player like Tom Brady. No NFL team has held that line any better than the Patriots, who are well known for biting bullets--usually for the right reasons.
What I would suggest, respectfully, is that the Patriots apply themselves here ... and work as hard to keep Edelman as Edelman himself has worked to develop his game. There is a unique synergy between this player and this team and therefore Edelman is worth more to the Patriots than he is to any other organization. In a very young receiving group, he is by far the most advanced and dependable player. Anybody who watched any Patriots football in 2013 knows this. There were times, crucial times, when the whole building and TV audience knew Tom Brady was trying to throw to a double-covered Edelman ... and they still executed the play.
Now let's talk about upside, which often gets ignored with Edelman. Jim Hackett and I have been talking about this since early in 2012 on our WEEI podcasts. Edelman gives you most of what Welker gave you. Plus, he’s a very tough and effective blocker in space, which is obviously something coach Belichick holds in high regard. This is no diva receiver. He gives you everything he has on every single snap. So let’s make sure we give this player full credit for what he brings to the table.
- Head - Edelman is smart and well-versed in the Patriots’ offense. He consistently gives you what you need ... when you need it. He has the implicit trust of Tom Brady and the offensive coaching staff.
- Heart - He gives maximum effort at all times and plays with passion. If there is a “Patriot Way”, this player personifies it. In the wake of the Aaron Hernandez nightmare, doesn’t it make sense to double-down on a guy like Edelman, who at age 27, is now at his physical peak?
- Production - When he plays, he produces. It’s that simple. This goes all the way back to his rookie year when he filled-in so well for Welker.
- Versatility - Is there a more diverse player on the roster? Yes, Brady is an all-time great, but once you get past his obvious contributions, it’s players like Edelman and Shane Vereen who make the Patriots’ offense what it is. The ability to morph the look of the offense pre-snap is largely based on having players who can line-up all over the place and do it seamlessly.
- Continuity - Tom Brady has to have a few things he can depend on. With Rob Gronkowski's latest injury threatening his status for September, Edelman's retention is even more crucial.
What should a player like Edelman be worth to the team? I know that the Patriots are probably frustrated by Edelman’s 2013 production. I am sure they had a long-term salary in mind for him that is now a bit blown out of the water. I also know that New England takes pride in making the tough choices, but this is not Wes Welker past his prime, or BenJarvus Green-Ellis underscoring the validity of the Peter Principle. This is a player whom they would miss in a significant way.
My gut tells me that the Patriots will retain Edelman for some of the reasons listed above. If both sides bend a bit, there is a rational number that should allow everyone to move forward happily. Edelman, as great as he was last year, will need to accept that he’s been injured often. He’ll have to accept that he has had more unproductive years than productive ones. He may have to leave a few bucks on the table, but staying home is worth something for a player in his situation. His mastery of the New England system doesn’t give him much of an advantage anywhere else. Don't discount what staying might mean for his next contract. Again, both sides can benefit here if egos are kept in check.
It’s also worth considering that the 2014 draft is receiver-rich. The free agent market may not be all that strong if you are seeking a lot of guaranteed money. At the same time, the Patriots have about as many young receivers as they can use. A glue guy like Edelman is an important cog as we saw in 2013. He's a bridge player in that sense, but a bridge player who still has plenty of gas left in the tank.
The one thing that could muck this up is an irrational suitor. The Patriots will be in some trouble if an impulsive owner like Daniel Snyder decides he wants Edelman. New York might go after Edelman just to put a stick in New England’s spokes. It makes sense to get this done early for the Patriots. They need to figure out what their number is and act swiftly.
In the end, both parties benefit from a continued relationship and both parties are, in my estimation, rational actors. I’m expecting a rational outcome. How does three years at about 18 million, with 7 million guaranteed sound?
2014 Scouting Reports:
- Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
- Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A & M
- Dustin Vaughan, QB, West Texas A & M
- Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
- Odell Beckham, Jr., WR, LSU
- Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
- Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State
- L'Damian Washington, WR, Missouri
- Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
- Robert Herron, WR, Wyoming
- Carlos Hyde, RB, Ohio State
- Lache Seastrunk, RB, Baylor
- Dri Archer, RB, Kent State
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