Curran: Five takeaways from Julian Edelman's extension with Patriots

Curran: Five takeaways from Julian Edelman's extension with Patriots

Five takeaways from Julian Edelman's contract extension . . .

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Growing up in Redwood City, California, the then-pocket-sized Edelman would say to friends who didn’t think he’d be able to accomplish something, “Bet against me . . . ” His self-belief from the time he was a 4-foot-11, 70-pound freshman at Woodside High School through now has never wavered. And this deal is a concrete example of Edelman cashing in because he bet on himself. After an injury-marred 2012 season, Edelman didn’t get much attention as a free agent. He came back to the Patriots on a one-year deal for 2013 and proceeded to explode. After that, he signed a fluff-free four-year, $19 million deal. And since signing that, he’s had iconic touchdowns in two Super Bowl wins. Edelman came into the NFL in 2009 after three years as a Kent State quarterback. He somewhat spun his wheels until getting his chance in 2012. That Edelman is closing his career with this kind of on-field production and off-field earnings means that anyone betting against him is making a bad wager.
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With a two-year extension, the (just-turned) 31-year-old wideout is now signed through 2019, as are Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski. Convenient. Even more convenient: the 2019 season will represent Bill Belichick’s 20th year as head coach of the Patriots and Brady’s 20th year in New England. As I’ve mentioned a few times in the past, Belichick likes round numbers and what it would mean to coach 20 seasons from a historical perspective. If he gets to 20 consecutive with the Patriots, he’d join Tom Landry (29), Curly Lambeau (29), Don Shula (26) and Chuck Noll (23) as men who coached a team for a generation. And nobody’s matching that this century.
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Why’d Edelman get extended to play with the team past the age of 31 when Wes Welker wasn’t? Great question. And you have to go back to the Welker-Patriots relationship in 2011 and 2012 to understand. In 2011, Welker caught 122 passes for 1,569 yards and nine TDs. He was an All-Pro and the Patriots got to the Super Bowl, where Welker and Brady failed to connect on a would-be game-sealing completion in the fourth quarter. Welker’s agent, David Dunn, submitted a dossier explaining why Welker should be paid like Calvin Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald. The Patriots put the franchise tag on Welker. Pissed, Welker had a less-than-committed offseason heading into 2012. And then he got beaten out by Edelman in training camp. It wasn’t until Aaron Hernandez broke his ankle against Arizona in the season’s second game and Edelman broke his wrist that Welker re-emerged. At the end of that season, Welker was hell-bent on finding the money the Pats wouldn’t give him and hit free agency. The Patriots, snubbing Edelman – who was so injury-plagued at that point – signed Danny Amendola. Welker, realizing the interest wasn’t out there, wanted to rejoin the Patriots but New England had already filled Welker’s spot with Amendola. It was a money thing. With Edelman – who is represented by Don Yee, Steve Dubin and Carter Chow (Yee and Dubin also represent Tom Brady and Jimmy Garoppolo) – it never turned into a financial tug-of-war.

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I mentioned the 2014 “fluff-free” deal? I called it that because there was no backloading involved and all the salaries and roster bonuses were evenly distributed. We’ll see when the numbers come out if the new deal provides a little less certainty for Edelman and is more performance-based. With Malcolm Mitchell perhaps emerging and Brandin Cooks now in the house as well, the ball is bound to find Edelman less often than it has in past seasons. Which isn’t a bad thing. He saw the fourth-highest number of regular-season targets (160) and was thrown to 195 times including the postseason. And he returns punts. Backing the workload off a touch is a wise move.
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What about Malcolm Butler? The Patriots have now collected a fleet of free agents (including Stephon Gilmore), gone back to the table early with Gronk (albeit with just a few new incentives to give him a performance boost) and are extending guys like Edelman (who was going to be equally as underpaid as Butler this year). Why doesn’t Malcolm eat? Because the Patriots kinda Welker’d him. He didn’t bite on their offer (which could have topped $10 million per if Butler hit his incentives, according to Mike Reiss) so they signed Gilmore. Now Butler has to suck it up and play for $3.91 million. He could have played it like Edelman did and re-signed for authentic money on a short-term deal at any time over the past couple seasons. He decided not to. I don’t blame him for that – Butler’s first three years were better than Edelman’s – but waiting for the giant windfall comes at a cost and a risk.

Report: Cam Fleming visiting the Cowboys

File Photo

Report: Cam Fleming visiting the Cowboys

There's one gigantic hole to fill on the Patriots offensive line.

Replacing Nate Solder is no easy task and it's not exactly clear how the Pats will yet.

NFL Network insider Ian Rapoport was first to report the Patriots would like to bring back Waddle or Fleming.

It now appears that one of the former backup tackle is taking a serious look elsewhere, according to Ian Rapoport. 

It's not the best offensive line free agency market this season, so the Pats may prefer to bring back a guy they are familar with.

If Fleming is off the board, Waddle still remains as an option for New England.



How the compensatory pick formula may impact Patriots free-agent calls

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How the compensatory pick formula may impact Patriots free-agent calls

How highly do the Patriots value their mid-round draft picks? We'll find out as the run on NFL free agents continues this week. 

If Bill Belichick and Nick Caserio plan to make any signings from outside the organization, they'll have to factor into that decision what they will be giving up. Money and cap space matter . . . sure. But there is draft capital at stake.  

The Patriots are currently projected to land two third-round compensatory picks in 2019 after losing both Malcolm Butler and Nate Solder in free agency. There's real value there, and the decision-makers at One Patriot Place may be reluctant to give that up. 

Recent Patriots third-round picks include Derek Rivers, Tony Garcia, Joe Thuney, Jacoby Brissett, Vincent Valentine, Geneo Grissom, Duron Harmon and Logan Ryan. 


Before we get into how the Patriots might lose those third-round comp picks if they remain active in free-agency, it's worth noting how comp picks are assigned. 

The compensatory-pick formula the league uses has never been published, but we know the basics. It's based on free agents lost and free agents acquired in a given year by a particular team. The level of those players is taken into consideration -- based on salary, playing time and other factors -- and then picks are issued to teams who have lost more (or better) free agents than they acquired. Only free agents whose contracts have expired (not players who've been released) qualify for the compensatory-pick formula.'s Nick Korte is the best in the business when it comes to predicting how many picks teams will land based on their free-agent losses and acquisitions, and he has the Patriots down for two third-rounders in 2019 and nothing else. 

That may sound surprising given the Patriots lost Dion Lewis and Danny Amendola in addition to Butler and Solder, but that's the way the formula broke, according to Korte. The Adrian Clayborn signing (given a sixth-round value by OTC) cancelled out the Amendola loss (sixth-round value). The Matt Tobin signing (seventh-round value) cancelled out the Lewis loss (sixth-round value). And the Jeremy Hill signing (seventh-round value) cancelled out the Johnson Bademosi loss (sixth-round value). 

Why do Tobin and Hill cancel out Amendola and Lewis, despite being lower-value moves? Here's how OTC describes the process. (Free agents who qualify for the comp-pick formula are known as Compensatory Free Agents or CFAs.)

1. A CFA gained by a team cancels out the highest-valued available CFA lost that has the same round valuation of the CFA gained.

2. If there is no available CFA lost in the same round as the CFA gained, the CFA gained will instead cancel out the highest-available CFA lost with a lower round value.

3. A CFA gained will only cancel out a CFA lost with a higher draft order if there are no other CFAs lost available to cancel out. 

That final point is key. An example? The Seahawks recently signed CFA Jaron Brown, a seventh-round value. The only Seahawks "CFAs lost" available to cancel out the move were Paul Richardson and Jimmy Graham, both fourth-round values. Even though there's a three-round difference between Brown and Richardson, per Korte's projections, those moves still will cancel each other out. 

With that in mind, the Patriots may want to tread lightly when it comes to signing free agents who will qualify toward the comp-pick formula. They could lose out on the third-rounders they've received for Solder and Butler even if they sign a lower-value free agent.

Players like Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro or Raiders linebacker NaVorro Bowman would count toward the comp-pick formula. Would their value to the team be such that losing a 2019 third-round pick wouldn't matter to the Patriots? Or would their comp-pick impact hurt their chances of being picked up in New England? My guess would be the latter. 

The good news for the Patriots is that re-signing their own players -- like offensive tackles LaAdrian Waddle and/or Cam Fleming -- doesn't impact the comp-pick setup. Neither does signing players who've been released, meaning the Patriots could theoretically make a splash by signing Ndamukong Suh or Eric Ebron and they'd retain their comp picks.

Given the Patriots made just four draft picks last year, and since comp picks can be traded now (that rule was changed last year), it would come as little surprise if retaining those picks weighed heavily on Belichick and Caserio's decisions as they move through the remainder of the offseason.