There has been rampant speculation the last week or so that Julian Edelman may be calling it a career after a rather innocuous tweet, but hey the Patriots aren’t playing in January for the first time in forever so people are bored and reading more into things than they normally would. Despite missing the last 10 games of the season due to knee surgery, Edelman came out today and squashed any rumors of him retiring just yet. If you’ve been paying attention over the last decade or so, it’s hard to imagine him going out on Injured Reserve. With that being said, that time is coming sooner than later, so let’s take a look at some of the key factors that led to his return.
1.) Edelman has 1 year left on his contract
Despite being beat to all hell over the years, the guy just loves to ball. So with at least one year left where a team wants him to play football for them, I can’t see Edelman saying no to that. Whether he probably should retire or not with his long term health in mind is a different question. I know he’s pretty far behind Stanley Morgan in terms of Touchdowns and Receiving Yards (and games played), but with his 3 Super Bowl rings, his reliability on the field, his Jerry Rice-esque playoff stats, and his laundry list of clutch plays, Edelman is already the greatest receiver in Patriots history if you ask me. He’s also only 52 receptions behind Wes Welker for the all-time Patriots record so that could factor into him playing another season or two.
2.) Does Edelman want to retire a Patriot or rejoin Tom Brady?
In what seems to be a popular move these days a lot of former Patriots are finding their way down to Tampa. Whether thats through a pseudo-retirement like Gronk, which still doesn’t sit well with me, or even guys who only had a cup of coffee, albeit a wildly successful cup, with the Pats like Antonio Brown. There’s also speculation that more could join him like impending free agent James White, who would be an oh so perfect fit in Tampa. So with Edelman announcing he’ll be back that would seem to confirm he’s not going to try and force his way out of town to rejoin Tom in Florida. Now if he’s healthy and Tom is still playing, he could link up with him after *next* season, but those are two big ifs. Mostly because Edelman’s health is never a certainty, but also because Brady only signed a 2-year contract so he could actually, finally, be retired at that point.
But I think this is missing the entire point.
While Julian Edelman clearly reveres Tom Brady, people seem to forget how much he genuinely loves playing for Bill Belichick. If you’ve seen Edelman’s documentary or read any of his life story then you know Edelman’s dad was a Hall of Fame hard ass who worked Jules’ to the bone growing up and helped mold him into the guy he is today. And I genuinely believe that is something that Edelman not only appreciates, but he craves it. Not to mention Belichick is the only guy that gave Edelman a shot coming out of college and again putting him in a position to succeed in the NFL.
Plus few people have embraced living in Boston more than Edelman has. The guy still lives in the Back Bay, rides his skateboard around town, and is known to pop into random spots like Hojoko in Fenway for a burger. So yes the Pats were a dumpster fire last year while the Bucs are still playing for a Super Bowl berth, but with everything I just rattled off I truly think Edelman wants to retire as a Patriot.
3.) Slot Receiver History
Edelman will be 35 before the start of training camp with 11 seasons already under his belt and a litany of injuries over the years, but I can’t imagine a guy with a self produced documentary called “100%” and a biography called “Relentless” wanting to go out this way. Keep in mind, statistically he had literally his best game EVER in Week 2 against Seattle going off for 8 catches and 179 yards before nagging injuries caught up to him and the wheels fell off the Cam Newton experiment. So as of just a few months ago he still had elite production. However he is already past the expiration date we see on just about every slot receiver, who all take an inhumane level of abuse throughout their careers. Wes Welker retired at the age of 34, but had his last 50+ reception season at 32. The Jets’ all-time slot guy Wayne Chrebet retired at the age of 32. Troy Brown is probably the best Edelman comparison at this point as he caught his last pass at the age of 35 when he had 43 receptions for 384 yards and 4 Touchdowns. Obviously the talent devoid Patriots will need more from a 35-year-old Edelman than 43/384/4 if they’re going to be successful, but thats the measuring stick for 35-year-old slot receivers. Clearly it’s not fair to expect 100 receptions from a guy going into his 12 season, but that just goes to show you the situation the Pats have put themselves in with poor personnel moves (trading a 2nd for Mohamed Sanu) and even worst drafting (1st round WR N’Keal Harry).
While I have no idea if Belichick will do what I hope he does and execute Order 66 this offseason to get the Patriots back to where they need to be, I am glad we get to watch at least one more year of Julian Edelman.