Things are shaping up rather quickly for the Patriots at wide receiver.
The most recent domino to fall was the re-signing of free agent Julian Edelman (according to Mike Garafolo of USA Today).
Mike Garafolo @MikeGarafolo
WR Julian Edelman will re-sign with the Patriots today. Visited the Giants but is going back to New England.4/10/2013, 3:50:35 PM
The news of Edelman re-signing comes on the same day it was announced that they signed Steelers wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders to an offer sheet (according to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports), giving the Pittsburgh five days to match, so the Patriots are clearly taking the volume approach at wide receiver once again. This marks the third year in which they've made at least three signings at the position.
Garafolo later clarified that Edelman's deal was for one year, so this signing doesn't take them out of the running to add a receiver through the draft (if there was a signing that would have that sort of impact, it would be Sanders) as much as it simply answers a current depth need for the Patriots.
Edelman is still dealing with the foot injury that landed him on injured reserve in 2012. That, coupled with the other injuries he suffered this year (hand, concussion), was likely a large part of the reason why there was so little interest in him on the open market—the Giants were the only other team he visited.
The injuries are also likely the reason he is on a one-year deal. There's no commitment for the Patriots, and if Edelman stays healthy and produces, he gets to try his luck at free agency again next year.
He hasn't put up big numbers in the past, and had his best season as a rookie with 37 receptions for 359 yards and a touchdown. He was expected to become a bigger part of the Patriots offense in 2012 when it appeared Wes Welker was being phased out of the game plan.
Edelmen was seen as more physical than Welker in terms of blocking and winning one-on-one matchups on the outside, and he has a similar skill set to Welker's in the passing game. One problem: he's never been as durable.
From a schematic standpoint, this addition can only be considered a win for the Patriots. Quarterback Tom Brady gets to keep a familiar target, one who has a working knowledge of the offense as well.
Edelman has proven versatile in lining up in the slot and on the perimeter, lining up in the slot on only 44 of his 182 total routes (24.2 percent). In that sense, he's the opposite of Danny Amendola, who is also seen as versatile enough to line up anywhere, but ran 261 of his 325 total routes (80.2 percent) from the slot.
Rob Gronkowski is often regarded for his ability to line up all over the field as a tight end, in the backfield, in the slot and even on the outside. The same goes for Aaron Hernandez, and he's utilized as such on an even grander scale.
Each player has their strengths, but all of them have the ability to line up anywhere. Now, with Edelman, Amendola, Hernandez and Gronkowski as the team's top four skill position players in the passing game, the Patriots can break the huddle and cause a headache for a defense that's trying to match personnel. It makes Brady's job that much easier in terms of finding and exploiting mismatches.
Erik Frenz is also a Patriots/AFC East writer for Boston.com. Follow Erik on Twitter and "like" the AFC East blog on Facebook to keep up with all the updates. Unless otherwise noted, all stats obtained from ProFootballFocus.com's premium stats, and all quotes obtained firsthand or via team press releases.