NFL

A Brutal Injury Set the Stage For Julian Edelman to Become a $44 Million NFL Star

Bill Belichick stumbled upon a future star when the New England Patriots selected Julian Edelman in the seventh round of the 2009 NFL draft. However, the former Kent State quarterback needed a few years to find his footing in pro football. In fact, it took a brutal personnel loss in Week 1 of the 2013 season for Edelman to finally get his opportunity to shine.

And with his NFL career officially coming to a close, it raises the ultimate question: Does Edelman belong in the Pro Football Hall of Fame?

The Julian Edelman era has come to an end in New England

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Julian Edelman put his body on the line for more than a decade in New England. Along the way, he established a reputation as a clutch playoff performer and respected teammate. His penchant for making tough catches in traffic, combined with his precise route running, made him one of the NFL’s preeminent slot receivers.

However, knee issues limited Edelman to just 21 receptions for 315 yards in six games last year. And ever since the 2020 season ended, speculation has swirled about his long-term future in Foxborough.

On Monday, the Edelman era officially came to a close. Shortly after the Patriots released him with a failed physical designation, the soon-to-be 35-year-old announced his retirement in a video posted on Twitter.

“I’ve always said, ‘I’ll go until the wheels come off,’ and they finally have fallen off,” Edelman said. “Due to an injury last year, I’ll be making my official announcement of my retirement from football. It was a hard decision, but the right decision for me and my family. And I’m honored and so proud to be retiring a Patriot.” 

Ironically, while an injury has forced him to hang up his shoulder pads and helmet for good, Edelman’s career changed completely when one of his teammates suffered a health setback of his own.

A brutal injury opened the door for Edelman to become a wealthy NFL star

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During his first four years in New England, Julian Edelman caught a total of 69 passes. The former college quarterback actually spent most of his time returning punts. Plus, he even moonlighted as a defensive back due to depth issues.

Then 2013 happened.

The Patriots signed Danny Amendola to a lucrative contract to replace Wes Welker. Edelman had a chance to leave in free agency, but he returned to the team on a one-year deal. Expected to fill a backup role, he quickly got thrust into a much more prominent one.

Amendola suffered a serious groin injury in his Patriots debut. New England’s high-priced offseason acquisition missed significant time, which opened the doorway for Edelman to get on the field more. By season’s end, he had racked up 105 catches for 1,056 yards and six touchdowns. Amendola only recorded 54 receptions for 633 yards and two touchdowns in 12 games.

Ultimately, that one injury set the stage for Edelman to become an NFL star. Following his breakout 2013 campaign, he averaged 85 catches from 2014-19. He earned three Super Bowl rings and recorded arguably the most impressive catch in postseason history. And with roughly $44 million in career earnings, Edelman certainly did well to cash in on his success.

Does the Patriots legend deserve a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame?

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Now that his NFL career has officially ended, it will be interesting to see how much love Julian Edelman gets from Pro Football Hall of Fame voters. When he does become eligible, his candidacy will surely engender strong opinions.

On the surface, his numbers seem low by Hall of Fame standards. Edelman retires with just shy of 600 catches and 6,000 receiving yards. And he only totaled 21 touchdowns in 155 regular-season games.

However, his playoff resume makes his case much more interesting. With Tom Brady often looking his way, Edelman racked up 118 receptions in 19 postseason games. Of course, 10 of those came in his MVP-caliber performance against the LA Rams in Super Bowl 53.

Second to only Jerry Rice in playoff catches, Edelman certainly stepped up when the Patriots needed him the most. Will that be enough to convince voters to overlook his rather underwhelming regular-season numbers?

At this point, it seems unlikely that he will earn a spot in Canton. But given his contributions to the franchise, there’s no doubt Julian Edelman will get inducted into the Patriots Hall of Fame one day.

All contract data courtesy of Spotrac. All statistics courtesy of Pro Football Reference.