The New England Patriots had some hope Julian Edelman (knee) would be able to return from IR last season. But it was not to be, and he only played six games. He played all 16 games and had 100 catches in 2019, but he did so with partially torn rib cartilage and eventually knee trouble.
Approaching 35 years and entering the final year of his contract, it was natural to question Edelman’s future with the Patriots. In late February, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported doubt about him being healthy enough to play in 2021. Those concerns have now ramped up.
According to Karen Guregian of the Boston Herald, Edelman has chronic knee problems. Thus, he’s considered “doubtful” to be able to play the entire 2021 season. To be clear, that doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll be unable to play at all. He’s just not likely to play all 16 games. Or, presumably, fill anything resembling a prominent role.
While surgery can provide temporary relief, nothing can solve the underlying problem, the source said. That doesn’t mean Edelman won’t try to suit up, but if you’re the Patriots, how do you keep a soon to be 35-year-old receiver with a bad knee that will eventually sideline him again?
The Patriots aggressively added to their group of pass catchers in free agency. The draft may bring more additions, and a further bump down the depth chart/pecking order for Edelman. Removing the sentiment attached to his name, the Patriots would not typically keep a diminished player who’ll have a diminished role.
Edelman is of course hesitant to retire, preferring instead to try to gut out one more season on a balky knee. If the Patriots wanted to part with him at this point, cutting him is the only viable path. But who would sign him, knowing he won’t be physically able to play as much or as well as a younger, healthier player could? No team is trading for him, that’s for sure.
According to Over The Cap, if the Patriots traded or released Edelman they’d clear a little over $3.4 million in cap space. The remainder of his $6.1 million cap hit ($2.66 million) would be left behind in dead money.
No matter how it plays out, 2021 looks like it will be Edelman’s final NFL season. Assuming he doesn’t retire beforehand, with time to change his tune there.