The New England Patriots lost another leader when Julian Edelman retired on Monday. Edelman’s contributions will be hard to replace.
The New England Patriots an important team leader when Julian Edelman retired on Monday. Edelman was a former seventh-round draft pick that far exceeded his draft value. He came into the league as a college quarterback being converted to wide receiver. He retires as one of the best receivers in Patriots franchise history.
For his career, Edelman had 620 receptions, 6,822 yards, and 36 touchdowns. He went from fringe roster player to one of Tom Brady’s most reliable targets. He was the latest in the line of coveted slot receivers for Brady and he lived up to the play of predecessors Troy Brown and Wes Welker.
Even though Edelman has distinguished career statistics, his true value to the organization is hard to quantify. He was the epitome of the “Patriot Way” as a home-grown player who always had a chip on his shoulder and something to prove.
He gave the offense and the team an edge that they often missed during their run of Super Bowl wins. He was always quick to get in the face of defenders if things got chippy. He was there to pick up his teammates if the team was struggling during games.
When Bill Belichick talked about “No Days Off” he had to be thinking about Edelman amongst his many other players. Despite playing in the slot and always taking a beating, Edelman always gave 1000% effort. He wasn’t always healthy, but unless he wasn’t cleared to play, he was there and never made excuses.
Perhaps most importantly, Edelman was usually at his best in the biggest games. His masterpiece came in Super Bowl LIII where he had 10 catches for 141 yards. In a game with very little offense, Edelman looked like a man who could not be covered. It was clear early and often in that game that he could be having a special night. He ended the game as the Super Bowl MVP.
For his career, Edelman had 118 playoff receptions and 1,442 yards. Even if this does not make him NFL Hall of Fame worthy, he certainly will find himself in the Patriots Hall of Fame. He will be extremely hard to replace for a team that is in the middle of a major makeover. Gone are the constants of Tom Brady, Patrick Chung, Marcus Cannon, Rob Gronkowski, Joe Thuney and now Edelman.
All were important and some critical pieces to the team’s last three Super Bowl victories. All are now gone from the roster in a matter of two seasons. Losing Edelman now feels like a further turning of the page for the Patriots and the original “Patriot Way.” Replacing his production will be hard enough. Replacing his work ethic, leadership and swagger may be impossible.