The New England Patriots are 8-3 and among AFC favorites, but as the season progressed it seemed as though the team may struggle with the obscene number of mounting injuries. Fortunately the Patriots have players like Julian Edelman, guys who can perform at any moment. The fifth-year receiver out of Kent State, where he played quarterback, is currently working on a one-year, incentive-laden deal for the 2013 season, but Edelman has stepped up to the plate this year to show his worth.
Edelman was Tom Brady’s right-hand man when the receiving game lingered without Rob Gronkowski, Shane Vereen, and Danny Amendola. He even was leading the NFL in receiving with 27 receptions after three games and was a large factor to why the Patriots jumped out to a 5-1 start despite those three weapons on the sidelines. Now that they are back, Edelman has gone back to his usual back-up receiver/punt returner role (as seen by Edelman only averaging three catches per game over a five game stretch), but last week exposed how the team’s longest-tenured receiver can still factor into the offense’s game plan.
In the team’s biggest game of the season against the Denver Broncos, Edelman answered, hauling in nine passes for 110 yards and two touchdowns. He has now set personal marks for every major receiving category and there are still five games left in the 2013 campaign. To boot, with his career-high of 61 receptions, Edelman has added a $180,000 bonus to his $715,000 base salary. If he can get to 70 receptions, which in all likelihood will happen, Edelman can get a extra $250,000 on top of that base salary.
The biggest reason Edelman (who is the first Patriot to wear No. 11 since Drew Bledsoe) has stuck in New England is because of his expertise as a punt returner, which has been solid again in 2013. Edelman’s average of 11.7 yards pr return is down from his career average of 12.7, but that is because he has yet to break loose for a touchdown. The 11.7 average is still good enough for ninth in the NFL, though, and he has returned all but one of the team’s punts this season.
An important factor to re-signing the 2009 7th-round pick is that Tom Brady trusts him, so the quarterback would not have to go through the feeling-out process that occupied much of this year’s training camp if the squad brought in a new player like Edelman in 2014. However, the bottom line is Julian Edelman is a gamer, someone who gets the most out of his ability and performs when you need him most. For Bill Belichick and the rest of the New England Patriots front office, a contract extension for the valuable Edelman should be a no-brainer. Pay the man.