Shortly after the Patriots released Julian Edelman, the accomplished wide receiver revealed he will not attempt to play for another team. The 12-year veteran announced his retirement Monday afternoon (video link).
The Pats cut Edelman with a failed-physical designation, doing so after he missed 10 games due to a knee injury last season. As recently as late February, Edelman wanted to play a 13th season. But the 34-year-old pass catcher had not fully recovered from the knee injury he battled last year, and the Patriots signed four new aerial weapons — wideouts Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne and tight ends Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry — last month. However, Edelman may not be easy to replace. He operated as the top wideout for six playoff-bound Patriot teams during the 2010s and was a significant part in the franchise winning three more Super Bowls during the decade.
Edelman did not hold an extensive role in New England’s offense until his fifth season, which came after Wes Welker signed with the Broncos in 2013, and never made a Pro Bowl. He missed the 2017 season, incurred a four-game PED ban in 2018 and was considerably limited in 2015 and ’20 as well. Regular-season availability notwithstanding, dominated in playoff opportunities and still ranks second in Patriots history with 620 regular-season receptions — behind only Welker’s 672.
“By any measure of what constitutes an elite NFL career – wins, championships, production – Julian has it all,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. “Day in and day out, Julian was always the same: all out. Then, in the biggest games and moments, with championships at stake, he reached even greater heights and delivered some of his best, most thrilling performances.”
During the 2018 postseason — one Edelman concluded by winning Super Bowl LIII MVP acclaim — the former Kent State quarterback surpassed Michael Irvin on the playoff receiving yardage list. Only Jerry Rice compiled more postseason yards than Edelman (1,442). While Edelman did play in 19 postseason games, only 14 of those came after Welker’s departure opened up a role for him on offense. En route to three Super Bowl titles, Edelman posted six 100-yard playoff games. The former seventh-round pick’s top two playoff yardage performances came two years ago, when he amassed 151 in a rout of the Chargers and 141 in New England’s defense-fueled win over the Rams.
A touchdown pass from the former college QB also did plenty to ensure the Patriots could add to their ring total in the 2010s. Edelman’s touchdown toss to Danny Amendola propelled New England past Baltimore in the 2014 divisional round, and Edelman added a receiving TD in the Patriots’ come-from-behind Super Bowl XLIX win over the Seahawks. Edelman did not score or surpass 100 yards in the Pats’ record-setting comeback win over the Falcons, but his tipped reception on a game-tying drive kept the team’s storied rally in play. The slot receiver’s absence in Super Bowl LII proved pivotal as well, with the Patriots falling short as favorites against the Eagles.
Despite the postseason success, Edelman never earned more than $8MM in average annual salary. He signed five Patriots contracts — the most recent a two-year, $15.5MM deal in 2019 — but was never among the NFL’s highest-paid receivers. Prior to the 2017 ACL tear, a foot injury limited Edelman to nine games in 2015. He will be eligible for up to $2MM in injury protection funds, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets.
The lack of a Pro Bowl honor and a short run as an offensive weapon will almost certainly keep Edelman out of the Hall of Fame. The 12-year veteran sits 156th on the league’s all-time receiving yards list (6,822). But he proved essential to the second leg of the Patriots dynasty taking shape and will be remembered as one of the great postseason performers in NFL history.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.