Unrestricted free agent wide receiver Julian Edelman has fallen under the radar with much of the New England Patriots off-season attention focusing on the status of impending free agents Wes Welker, Aqib Talib and Sebastian Vollmer. The Patriots opted not to use the franchise tag on Welker, Talib or Vollmer so even more of the free agency chatter and spotlight for the Patriots will hinge on those three players, who were all essential to the Patriots success last season.
Injuries cut Edelman’s 2012 season short but his talent and upside is undeniable, something the Patriots must consider before letting him walk in free agency.
Few remember that at the beginning of the regular season, Edelman was actually the starter and Welker came off the bench. But a Week 3 hand injury against the Baltimore Ravens derailed Edelman’s chances of becoming the full-time starter at the slot position. That game Wes Welker assumed the role at slot position (which he rightfully deserved) and hauled in 142 receiving yards, en route to another fine season for the nimble wideout as Edelman could not never reassume the starting job.
Edelman missed the next three games, before returning to action in Week 7 versus the New York Jets. He played in each of the next five games for the Patriots before breaking his foot in Week 13 against the Miami Dolphins, sidelining him for the rest of the season.
Injuries disrupted any chance for Edelman to get into a groove in the receiving game. He caught just 21 passes for 235 yards and 3 touchdowns in nine games this past season. Although Edelman did not live up to his goals in the receiving game, he did have an impact in the punt return game in the limited chances he had in 2012. Edelman returned 17 punts for an average of 15.5 yards, running one punt back for a touchdown. He is the only player in the NFL to return at least one punt for a touchdown in each of the past three seasons.
Edelman is an elite open field runner and can be a force in the punt return game, proving he is a very versatile player. His speed in the open field gives hope that he can eventually be very dependable target in the passing game. Injuries are the lone concern for Edelman, who has missed 16 of a possible 64 games in four seasons in the NFL. Still, Edelman can impact the game in so many positive ways for the Patriots and he is worth re-signing this off-season.