How Patriots Should Use Julian Edelman If Wide Receiver Returns In 2021

Edelman still could help New England's offense

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The 2020 NFL season was frustrating for the New England Patriots and their postseason legend wide receiver Julian Edelman.

The Patriots went 7-9 and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2008, while Edelman suited up for just six games as he fought through a nagging knee injury.

Edelman didn’t give a definitive answer about retirement during a recent appearance on Barstool Sports podcast “Pardon My Take,” but it sounds like the receiver will attempt to give it a go in 2021. And with the way New England’s depth chart currently is stacked up, the Patriots could use him next season.

The Patriots probably shouldn’t plan to give Edelman a full-time role, however. So, they’ll need three startable wide receivers around the 34-year-old. Currently, just Edelman, Jakobi Meyers, N’Keal Harry, Gunner Olszewski, Marqise Lee, Devin Smith, Kristian Wilkerson and Isaiah Zuber are signed for 2021.

Meyers proved in 2020 that he’s a starter. The Patriots can’t head into the 2021 season counting on Harry to be a concrete No. 1, 2 or 3 option after he failed to produce in his first and second seasons.

In an ideal world, Edelman would be used how Danny Amendola was deployed during his Patriots career: as a No. 3/4 who comes on the field in obvious gotta-have-it passing situations.

Edelman and Harry potentially could share a No. 3 role, but if the Patriots truly want to improve their passing attack, they should look to add two starting options this offseason through free agency, trade and/or the draft.

It’s a good year to need a top wide receiver, with Allen Robinson, Chris Godwin, Kenny Golladay, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Will Fuller, Curtis Samuel, Corey Davis and Marvin Jones all hitting free agency and Ja’Marr Chase, Devonta Smith, Jaylen Waddle, Rashod Bateman and Kadarius Toney available in the draft. The Patriots will have over $60 million in cap space and the No. 15 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.

There were multiple reasons why the Patriots’ offense sputtered in 2020. Chief among them was the fact that quarterback Cam Newton was throwing with Meyers, Harry, Byrd, tight end Ryan Izzo, fullback Jakob Johnson and running back James White as his top options.

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick can’t allow that to happen to whoever is starting at quarterback in 2021.

Thumbnail photo via Brian Fluharty/USA TODAY Sports Images

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