Free agent analysis: Edelman makes sense for Pats

Free agent analysis: Edelman makes sense for Pats
January 23, 2014, 10:45 am
Share This Post

Over the next few weeks, Tom E. Curran will examine the Patriots’ potential free agents. Today: Julian Edelman.

Julian Edelman couldn’t find a taker last offseason. The broken foot he suffered in December only advanced the four-year veteran’s reputation for being brittle.
Meanwhile, his punt return ability alone wasn’t enough to make teams overlook his lack of reps in the regular offense or the perception that he was solely an inside receiver.
On April 3, 2013, Edelman visited the New York Giants. Within 10 days, with no offer from New York, Edelman re-signed with the Patriots for $715,000. He had escalators in his contract that allowed him to collect $250,000 more if he caught more than 70 passes.
He caught 105. Then he caught another 16 in the playoffs.
Now he’s a free agent again. When he came into the league as a seventh-round pick, Edelman’s four-year deal included a $48,700 signing bonus. He turns 28 in May. He most likely will never have a juncture in his life when his earning potential is more potent than now.
How high will the Patriots go to re-sign him? There are some heavy factors that implore the Patriots to re-sign Edelman for solid money and one reason they may hesitate.
Start with the reason they may hesitate. They signed Danny Amendola – a similar receiver – last offseason to a five-year deal worth $31 million. The important aspect of Amendola’s deal is that $10 million is guaranteed and a $6 million signing bonus.
Cutting Danny Amendola to clear money for Julian Edelman won’t help the Patriots against the cap because Amendola’s release would bring a $2.7 million cap hit in 2014. And you’d have given the guy a total of $10 million to play one season before throwing up your hands and saying you’d seen enough.
Amendola was certainly not enjoying most-favored nation status with Tom Brady at the end of the year, but it’s too soon to presume that won’t improve. He tore the groin on both sides of his body gutting it through the opener against Buffalo. That injury hurt his explosiveness and cost him valuable time with Brady. In short, he ain’t done yet.
So the Patriots are going to have to get their head around a $4.5 million cap hit for Amendola in 2014 and whatever they pay Edelman.
Pay Edelman like you do Amendola and you’re basically paying two No. 2 receivers what you would pay a No. 1 elite receiver. OK. But how much more diverse does your offense become? You have two guys who can get open at will against zone but are not as adept against man coverage. They are not exceptional red-zone threats or vertical threats because of their size, catch radius and stride length.
You’re getting two for the price of one No. 1 but still not getting the skill set a No. 1 brings.
Arguing for the re-signing of Edelman, though, is the relationship and reliance Tom Brady has on him.
Edelman, not Wes Welker, was Brady’s throwing mate more regularly in California the past two summers. Edelman was the only receiver that Brady had a pre-existing relationship with prior to 2013 and it showed. Brady needs Edelman.
Additionally, Edelman is represented by Don Yee and Steve Dubin, the same guys that represent Brady. That puts their firm in an interesting spot because what’s best for Julian Edelman financially – seeking more money elsewhere - may not be what’s best for Tom Brady. And Brady’s a pretty important client.
The Patriots don’t bow to the wishes of their employees – as Robert Kraft pointed out last year when he said he doesn’t answer to Tom Brady – but letting Edelman go for a deal they could handle wouldn’t be refusing to bow, it would be screwing Brady and Edelman over because of a principle that deserves bending.
Meanwhile, if you’re an AFC rival of the Patriots, don’t you look at the Edelman situation as the way to deliver an offseason blow to New England?
Wes Welker was 32 last offseason. Nobody stepped up right away because of his age and his narrow skill set.
But Edelman is 28, a tremendous punt returner and more versatile in terms of where he can line up. He’s a more attractive player than Welker last year. Plus, if you sign him, you know you’ve kicked Brady square in the areas. And if you don’t but you drive up Edelman’s price, you’ve made the Patriots pay more.
The Patriots ought to make it a priority to get Edelman re-signed before free agency begins.
It will be a hard negotiation. The Amendola deal will be used against them in negotiations and the team will counter that Edelman’s injury-free 2013 is the exception, not the rule.
If you’re Edelman, you enter this offseason with an obligation to financially maximize your NFL career before it’s too late. If you’re the Patriots, you need to “do what’s best for the football team.”
This team paid $6 million for a season of Chad Ochocinco just three years ago, Anteing up for Edelman who – unlike Ocho –  is proven in the system and trusted by Tom Brady should be an easy decision.