The New England Patriots two huge free agent priorities are wide receiver Julian Edelman and cornerback Aqib Talib, and it will be interesting to see if the Pats can keep both guys on the roster. Both were given one-year deals in free agency last year, as Talib decided to take a prove-it kind of deal in order to stick around with the Patriots but also to put himself in a position to net a big payday in the 2014 offseason. Last year, the free agent market was saturated at the cornerback position, which caused top CBs like Talib to have to settle for mediocre deals. He decided to bet on a big 2013 season, and the fact that he was able to net Pro Bowl and All-Pro honors next season shows that he will definitely be getting a big contract this offseason.
Julian Edelman came into free agency last season with little fanfare, and he entered the regular season with even less expectations than rookie wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins. But Edelman was arguably the most valuable player on the Patriots not-named Tom Brady last season, as he had a monster breakout year with 105 catches and six touchdowns. The Patriots use him as a total possession guy, but he has the versatility to line up outside and has long speed to match his reliability in between the numbers. Edelman is also one of the league’s best punt returns, and there’s no doubting his value. He was finally healthy for a full season in 2013, and the stats show just what he’s capable of when he is healthy; he’s been one of the most improved players in the league in each of the past two seasons, based on the tape I’ve seen from him (watch what he did in November of 2012).
It’s safe to say that the Patriots need to do just about everything possible to keep both guys, and Edelman is probably easier to envision staying in New England. I’m sure both stars would love to stay, but Edelman is probably going to come at a significantly cheaper price.
Patriots owner Robert Kraft certainly wants to keep both guys and said of Edelman, via the Boston Herald’s Jeff Howe, “I definitely want him back. He’s an outstanding young man. We hope he wants to be back, and once again, it’s about two sides coming together. He really came into his own this year. What he did returning kicks and punts, but what he did on the field was tremendous. I really hope he’ll return with us.”
Kraft also stated his desire for the Pats to keep Talib around, “Very much, I really would. Look what happened in the game in Denver when he went out. We see the impact he can have. No matter how many weapons you have on offense, if you can’t stop the team on the other side, then it doesn’t matter. He really made a great contribution.”
No surprises, of course, on either statement from Kraft, and he went into detail on how much he likes Talib as a person in later quotes.