The No. 1 ability the Patriots need in free agency?
Which is why the prospect of long-term deals for Julian Edelman and Aqib Talib have the sweat dripping off the team’s palms.
Out here? Everybody’s got it all figured out. It sounds like this. In the car, on your TV, here on the worldwideweb, it’s simple:
You HAVE TO re-sign Edelman. Have. To. Can’t NOT do it. Must do it. Gotta have him.
Talib? Gotta do it. Have GOT TO DO IT. On what planet would you NOT do it? Not this one.
The Edelmaniacs . . . where were they last March? Why weren’t they saying this then?
I’ll tell you why. Because less than a year ago, Edelman was injury prone. And unproven. And hadn’t done anything with the chances given.
If you called into a show or spouted a “take” that the Patriots would be screwed without Julian Edelman, the laaaaughss . . . oh, the laughs.
Now? Innnnndispensable. And once that point is driven home, the ensuing diatribe will be about the brittleness of Danny Amendola.
Which inevitably leads to the Wes Welker Cul-De-Sac: Patriots shoulda just re-signed him and Edelman. Done and done.
Of course, Welker -- the Iron Horse of the slot -- played 13 games in 2013 while Amendola played 12.
And now Welker toddles into 2014 with an $8 million cap tag in Denver. At 32. And with a head that looks awesome on the outside (nice work, Doc Leonard!) but is getting more tender all the time on the inside.
By the time Amendola’s at the end of his contract, Welker could be three-fifths of the way through his Hall of Fame waiting period (discussion for another day).
But the Patriots should have given Welker what now?
Facts is facts, Amendola gets hurt annually. That his name’s been “floated” in trade talks shows the Patriots are at least considering bailing out.
But it’s not just because of his unreliability. It’s because of Edelman’s unreliability. And Rob Gronkowski’s. And Shane Vereen’s. And, in the snapshot we saw from their rookie seasons, Aaron Dobson, Kenbrell Thompkins and Josh Boyce’s.
The Patriots’ offense is built around guys who have a history of breaking down. And then there’s Logan Mankins and Vince Wilfork. Both in their 30s. Combined, they account for $22.1 million in 2014 cap space. Toss in Amendola and Gronkowski, that’s $32.2 million of the $133 million cap.
The Patriots have gotten more than their money’s worth so far from Talib and Edelman. Both players need to do what’s right for themselves in terms of taking care of their financial futures because neither will ever have the earning potential they do right now.
But re-signing them for what they want, deserve or could command AT THIS TIME is a huge risk, and the Patriots, you may have noticed, are pretty risk averse in their spending. They like to protect themselves. And even though they’ve done a pretty good job of it over the past 13 seasons, they are exposed right now with a ton of money invested in players with durability questions.
If the Patriots re-sign Edelman and Talib, they’ll be walking further out on an already-creaking branch.
They are better with those players than without them. But can they swallow hard and accept the risk?