Julian Edelman Would Maintain NFL Success with Cleveland Browns

Andrew GouldFeatured ColumnistMarch 13, 2014

FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 11:  Julian Edelman #11 of the New England Patriots runs the ball against Erik Walden #93 of the Indianapolis Colts in the first quarter during the AFC Divisional Playoff game at Gillette Stadium on January 11, 2014 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Al Bello/Getty Images

Julian Edelman won't post Pro Bowl numbers away from the New England Patriots, but he could still deliver commendable production if he signs with the Cleveland Browns.

According to CSN New England's Michael Giardi, the Browns hope to leave free agency with the New England wideout, who is in for a considerable payday after a transcendent 2013 campaign.

With Wes Welker in Denver and Danny Amendola and Rob Gronkowski spending most of their time on the injury report, Edelman emerged as the Patriots' premier receiver. He ranked fourth in the NFL with 105 catches, which he parlayed into 1,056 receiving yards and six touchdowns.

Since youngsters Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins struggled early in the season, Brady awarded his trust to the former seventh-round pick, who corralled 69 receptions in his final eight games (including the postseason). 

Operating as Tom Brady's top target is a sweet gig, which is why the dominant perception is that last year's breakout star will crash and burn. Regardless of the circumstances, it's always wise to beware a drop-off after a career season, but Edelman would continue to be a useful performer in Cleveland.

Considering his limited impact in the red zone, he's not a guy to claw for during this year's fantasy football draft. Some sap will likely point to his gaudy stats and mistakenly think he or she is signing up for those numbers.

But from a real-world perspective, Edelman can help the Browns, who are a competent quarterback away from becoming a playoff contender. The quarterback downgrade is the biggest reason to fear for Edelman away from Foxborough, but the organization should at least draft or sign somebody better than Brandon Weeden.

If anything, the Kent State alum's sharp routs would behoove an inexperienced passer who needs a safety valve. It doesn't necessarily take a Hall of Famer to hit someone on a simple six-yard slant to move the chains.

He won't receive 151 targets again, but that's true even if he stays with the Pats, who had everything go wrong for them on the receiver front outside of Edelman in 2013. Although the looks will naturally drop, defenses also can't make him a top priority with Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron to worry about.

FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 08: Josh Gordon #12 of the Cleveland Browns catches a pass in front of Aqib Talib #31 of the New England Patriots in the second quarter during the game at Gillette Stadium on December 8, 2013 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Ja
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

That's the main reason to trust him in this potential new locale. Gordon established himself as a premier receiver in 2013, tallying 87 receptions, 1,646 yards and nine touchdowns in just 14 games. While Cameron cooled off after a scorching start, he remains one of the league's most dangerous pass-catching tight ends.

With those two stretching defenders thin, Edelman should have breathing space to roam the middle of the field and move the chains. All of the sudden, it's Cleveland's new quarterback that'd be stumbling upon a sweet gig while Brady hopes Gronkowski can finally stay on the field.

FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 11:  Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots reacts with teammate  Julian Edelman #11 after a play against the Indianapolis Colts during the AFC Divisional Playoff game at Gillette Stadium on January 11, 2014 in Foxboro, Massachuse
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

If anything, the two sides parting ways will hurt the Patriots more than Edelman. As ESPNBoston.com's Field Yates noted, Edelman fit perfectly into New England's schemes as a slot receiver and returner.

He has the precise route running and downfield speed to play the "Z" -- or flanker -- position, a critical one in the Patriots' pass attack.

He brings an abundance of special-teams value as one of the better punt returners in the league, consistently setting up the Patriots' offense with good field position while also wisely judging and handling punts.

He's indefatigable in his approach (he's routinely the first player to enter the practice facility during the season) and just 27 years old.

Realistically speaking, Edelman shouldn't be projected for another 105 grabs no matter what uniform he wears in 2014. But as a slot receiver sandwiched between Gordon and Cameron, he could snag 70-80 balls for around 750-800 yards, and a few touchdowns if he's lucky.

The Browns shouldn't break their bank to procure that production, but he's a useful asset at the right price, and one that will fluster some skeptics by sticking around after getting written off.