Joe Mahoney/Associated Press
To say Julian Edelman was the only reliable weapon in the Pats' 2013 arsenal might be an understatement. Edelman stayed healthy for the first time in a his career and became Tom Brady's favorite target in a breakout season.
He finished with 105 catches for 1,056 yards and six touchdowns and hits the free-agency market after proving it on the one-year "prove it" deal the Pats gave him last offseason.
This leaves the Pats with a decision to make on their leading receiver for a second year in a row. If they had it to do over, would they give Edelman the kind of contract they gave Danny Amendola last offseason? Perhaps.
But they chose Amendola, and there is only so much money they'll want to allot to slot receivers. Let's not forget that Edelman had nowhere near the kind of production he had in 2013 in prior years. With full health and four years of practice with Tom Brady, he finally emerged. It's not unlikely that with time and health Amendola could have the same kind of production.
Edelman should get some interest on the free-agency market, especially from former offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien in Houston. But will other teams be scared off by Edelman's single year of production that came with an all-time great quarterback? They'll have to weigh those as major factors, and that could be enough to keep Edelman's price in the reasonable range for the Patriots.
Teams never want to lose weapons, especially homegrown ones coming off their breakout year, but the Pats have enough pieces in place, both in personnel and with their system, to replace Edelman should he walk.
But it seems more likely than not that someone else will be willing to pay just a little more than the Patriots will.