Tom Brady offered hopes Julian Edelman could come back this season after the Patriots‘ third preseason game Friday night, but after the team confirmed earlier today the ninth-year wideout tore his right ACL, the Pats will have to adjust again. The team’s primary slot receiver post-Wes Welker, Edelman recorded a career-high 1,106 receiving yards last season and played in 16 games. Edelman missed nearly half the season in 2015, and Brady’s production dipped without his top volume target. The iconic quarterback’s completion rate plummeted from 68 percent in nine Edelman games to 60 percent in seven contests without him. But the Patriots, as Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk notes, are deeper now and are expected to use a group effort to replace the 31-year-old receiver.
New England now employs Brandin Cooks and Chris Hogan, along with second-year player Malcolm Mitchell and a slew of viable receiving backs. Danny Amendola served as Edelman’s primary replacement in 2015, and the veteran figures to be part of the solution two years later. Florio uses New England’s 2016 Super Bowl run as an example of the resourceful team winning without a key pass-catcher. While the Pats won Super Bowl LI without Rob Gronkowski‘s services down the stretch, it’s hard to bank on the all-world tight end being available throughout this now-Edelman-less season. That said, Gronkowski did play in 15 games in both 2014 and ’15. Brady’s only played one game without Gronk or Edelman — 2015 loss to the Eagles — since the pair became the Patriots’ top chain-movers four years ago.
Here’s the latest fallout from the injury situation.
- AFC execs and coaches concur with Florio’s assessment, to some degree. “They’ll find another way to do it. So initially, [it’ll hurt them] some, but in the end not much at all,” an AFC coach texted Albert Breer of SI.com. Another added: “Amendola will have to stay healthy and pick up the slack. It won’t be easy, but they’ll make it work.” The 31-year-old Amendola reworked his contract again this offseason to stay with the Pats in what is the final year of his deal. Amendola amassed 243 air yards last season. “Health of others is key,” an AFC exec said, via Breer. “Amendola and [Gronkowski] need to stay healthy, but their offense is diverse enough to pick it up.”
- Edelman will still make nearly $7MM this season, with Ben Volin of the Boston Globe (Twitter link) relaying that in addition to his $3MM base salary, the slot bastion collected $3.5MM of his signing bonus and $250K workout bonus. Edelman, though, will miss out on $750K in per-game roster bonuses and a possible $500K in incentives, via Volin (on Twitter).
- Anquan Boldin retired from the Bills last weekend and would be an intriguing fit if the 36-year-old pass-catcher could be convinced to delay his busy-looking post-career endeavors, but Volin tweets Buffalo placed Boldin on its reserve/retired list. The Bills hold his rights and would have to relinquish them to green-light a Boldin/Patriots future. Boldin also said a day after his retirement intentions surfaced he won’t make a late-season return, insisting he’s done with the game.
- Edelman will stick around Foxborough to do his rehab, Volin tweets, likely offering help to his replacements as they attempt to fill the void created by the absence of one of the game’s top slot targets.