Julian Edelman’s Return To Patriots Puts Stamp On Successful Free Agency

Julian Edelman, Shaun Phillips, Mike AdamsThe New England Patriots did everything they needed to do in free agency.

It’s all gravy from here for the Patriots after signing cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner and wide receiver Julian Edelman. The Patriots’ two keys in free agency were to sign a top cornerback and a wide receiver that quarterback Tom Brady could trust. Head coach Bill Belichick and director of player personnel Nick Caserio did the team one better by bringing in two top-notch cornerbacks and last year’s No. 1 wideout.

The Patriots could still address their needs at defensive end and defensive tackle, but those weren’t as glaring as wide receiver and cornerback — and there’s always the draft.

Edelman was the most important free agent for the Patriots to bring back because he was tougher to replace than cornerback Aqib Talib. The Patriots proved that theory correct when they upgraded at cornerback with Revis and Browner.

It’s likely Edelman will never repeat his 2013 season, when he caught 105 passes for 1,065 yards with six touchdowns. He was Brady’s only trustworthy receiver after tight end Rob Gronkowski, wide receiver Danny Amendola and running back Shane Vereen got hurt. Edeman was left with a bunch of rookies to compete for targets.

Edelman will always have a key role in the Patriots’ offense, even if he’s not the No. 1 target again. He’s versatile in his ability to split out wide in the “Z” receiver role and inside at the slot, and he’s one of the best punt returners in the NFL.

It always seemed that Edelman would return to New England because that’s where he was going to be the most valuable. And because he has Brady’s trust, he was the best “slot” receiver on the market for the team.

Edelman probably didn’t receive the big payday that he wanted or expected, but he’s returning to a team that he knows will be a winner. This is where he’ll have success, and this is where he fits.

The Patriots could still sign a second veteran receiver, especially since the market seems low for players like James Jones, Emmanuel Sanders, Jason Avant and Brandon LaFell, but it’s not necessary. Edelman and Amendola take up two starting roles and it should be assumed that one of Aaron Dobson, Josh Boyce or Kenbrell Thompkins will step up in their second season.

The Patriots will likely draft at least one tight end in May, and they could bring in another tall wideout if they think that he has better upside than Dobson or Thompkins. A second year in the system can only help Amendola and the rookies’ chemistry with Brady, though.

The Patriots are in a good place right now. They’re going to bring back most of the pieces on a team that made it to the AFC Championship Game, and they already have a much-improved secondary.

Any other free agent that the Patriots bring in should be viewed as a bonus. The Patriots played the free-agency game perfectly.

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