There’s an argument to be made that Julian Edelman is the most irreplaceable New England Patriots offensive player.
It might not be a very strong argument that Edelman is less replaceable than Brady, but it can be made, and that’s why reportedly extending the wide receiver for two more seasons was so important for the Patriots.
How valuable is Edelman? For starters, the Patriots averaged 6.9 yards per play when he was on the field in 2015. When he broke his foot and missed time, the Patriots averaged just 4.7 yards per play. The Patriots went from 50 percent on third down to 33.9 percent, and Tom Brady completed 69 percent of his passes with Edelman and just 59.2 percent without him.
Of course, the Patriots also had a worse receiving corps back in 2015. So, if Edelman went down for a stretch in 2017, they’d be in better shape with Brandin Cooks, Chris Hogan, Malcolm Mitchell and Danny Amendola. But no one on the Patriots’ roster can do exactly what Edelman contributes to the offense. He is Brady’s most trusted weapon and offers a skill set that perfectly fits how the Patriots’ offense operates by getting open quickly and consistently.
And if the Patriots lost Brady? They still have Jimmy Garoppolo, who is not as good as the Patriots’ legendary starting quarterback, but he proved last season he can come close to putting up similar stats.
Need some more evidence that Edelman is valuable? He’s led the Patriots’ offense in net yards over average for three straight seasons. What is NYOA?
“Net yardage gained by the team while the player was on the field over a rolling six year league average factoring in field position, down, and distance. Example: for the 2011 season the league average gain for 1st and 10 on the offense’s 20 yard line was 5.99 yards. If the player participated in a play at 1st and 10 on his own 20 that gained 8 yards he’d earn 2.01 net yards over the league average. The defenders on that play would each earn -2.01 net yards over the league average.”
Edelman’s extension comes as a bit of a surprise. After the Patriots drafted Malcolm Mitchell and signed Chris Hogan in 2016 and traded for Brandin Cooks this offseason, it appeared they potentially were planning for life after Edelman, whose current contract ran out after this season. Now Edelman, like Brady, reportedly is locked up through the 2019 season.
Edelman will be 33 years old and likely close to wrapping up his NFL career when his contract runs out. If his career ended today, he’d go down as being one of the NFL’s greatest postseason performers with one of the most underrated careers.
He hasn’t and most likely never will make a Pro Bowl or All-Pro team, but he’ll surely enter the Patriots Hall of Fame when his career is over. And after winning (at least) two Super Bowls with the Patriots, he’ll be more beloved than his predecessor, Wes Welker, who left for the Denver Broncos after his Age 31 season was complete.
Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images