Julian Edelman, New England Patriots Both Make the Right Choice in Reunion

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Julian Edelman, New England Patriots Both Make the Right Choice in Reunion
USA Today

The New England Patriots made the right choice in bringing back wide receiver Julian Edelman (via ESPN's Adam Schefter).

Edelman also made the right choice by returning to the team that groomed him from an undersized running quarterback into an undersized slot receiver.

It's truly a win-win. We'll get an idea as to how much each side "won" once we see the contract details. One person who's a winner regardless: Tom Brady, who doesn't have to find a new favorite weapon for a second year in a row.

Patriots wide receivers, 2013
Player Tgt Rec Cth % Yds YPR TD INT DP
Kenbrell Thompkins 69 32 46.4 466 14.6 4 0 4
Aaron Dobson 71 37 52.1 519 14.0 4 2 9
Julian Edelman 146 105 71.9 1056 10.1 6 1 13
Austin Collie 10 6 60 63 10.5 0 1 0
Danny Amendola 82 54 65.9 633 11.7 2 0 8

Source: Pro Football Focus

So much stock is put into a receiver's physical ability, but the Patriots learned firsthand how important it is for Brady to be on the same page with his receivers.

We all saw how much the Patriots offense struggled at times to get into rhythm in 2013, and it's hard to imagine how much worse things could have been without Edelman as Brady's security blanket. He was the veteran QB's most targeted receiver in nine of their 18 total games last year, including seven of the final eight games and all five games after tight end Rob Gronkowski went down with a torn ACL.

"I mean, he was one guy that was so consistent and dependable for us. I'm just proud of him because of his mental toughness and maturity and his work ethic," Brady said of Edelman after the season on WEEI. Brady added, "I love him, he's one of my best pals, I spent a lot of time with him. I'm just proud of him for everything that he's accomplished. He deserves the best."

After a contentious contractual standoff with Wes Welker, the New England front office and head coach Bill Belichick gave people the impression that they viewed the slot receiver position as interchangeable; plug someone in, and he could finish with 100 catches. Edelman certainly made the case by becoming the third Patriots receiver in history with over 100 receptions and the 10th with over 1,000 receiving yards.

It's important to remember, though, that Edelman has been in the Patriots offense for five years. He is well versed in the scheme. He also learned a lot from Welker in their four years together.

There are two reasons Edelman's value may be a little higher than Welker's: their age at time of free agency (Welker was 31, Edelman is nearly 28), and their contributions as a punt returner (Edelman averages 12.3 yards per punt return, the seventh-highest in NFL history). One reason to be cautiously optimistic about Edelman, though, is that the 2013 season was the first year in Edelman's five-year career in which he's played all 16 games.

Between Edelman, Danny Amendola, Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Dobson, Kenbrell Thompkins and even Shane Vereen, the Patriots have a number of options in the passing game. Of course, that assumes Edelman, Amendola, Gronkowski and Vereen stay healthy and Dobson (who recently had surgery to repair a stress fracture in his foot) and Thompkins improve going into their second season.

Even with five or six legitimate threats, there's still work to be done for the Patriots offense.

The Patriots have some receivers with size in Dobson and Thompkins, but they could still use another big-bodied pass-catcher to round out the group. The sting of the AFC Championship Game has left Patriots fans desiring an upgrade in the size department at receiver.

There are still some big-bodied wide receivers on the open market, including James Jones, Brandon LaFell and Kenny Britt, but it's hard to put a number on the importance of chemistry between the quarterback and his receiver.

Edelman was wise to test the market, but after a few days, it looks like his best option was New England—as it seemed all along.

Brady's favorite target from 2013 is back in the fold, ensuring that if the growing pains continue with the young receivers, the passing offense will keep on chugging.

 

Erik Frenz is also a Patriots/AFC East writer for Boston.com. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand or via team news releases.

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