For a month in 2013, Julian Edelman was in football purgatory. Wes Welker was gone but the Patriots passed over Edelman as Welker’s replacement.
Instead, they poured their dough into Danny Amendola. Stung and bitter, Edelman took a free agent visit with the New York Giants, who, truth be told, were the only team kicking the tires on a guy who’d been a backup and special teamer for four injury-riddled seasons.
The offers were similar. One year. Less than $800,000. Edelman recalled sitting on his couch and, overwhelmed by the career crossroads he felt he was facing, melted into tears.
Advocating for him to suck it up and stay was Tom Brady.
In Edelman’s memoir, Relentless, he said the message Brady kept repeating was, “Just trust me, Jules. Trust me. Stay. I’ll make it work.”
It worked. In the six seasons since, Edelman’s gone from a guy making $765,000 in salary to a three-time Super Bowl champion with a Super Bowl MVP trophy and some of the most historic and memorable plays in postseason NFL history. Edelman has even wedged himself into a spirited conversation as to whether he deserves Hall of Fame consideration.
(Note: He does, despite the bad faith arguments comparing his regular-season stats to Michael Crabtree and such. And that’s not hyperbole from his co-author.)
And now, on the eve of his 33rd birthday, Edelman is signed through the 2021 season. It’s a two-year, $18M extension with $12M guaranteed. Edelman was down to make $2M in salary this year, the last year of a contract extension signed in June 2017.
It doesn’t put him in the earnings bracket of, say, Sammy Watkins (the go-to for overpaid wideouts) who signed a three-year, $48M deal with the Chiefs last offseason. But the wringer Edelman’s been through since his impossible catch against the Falcons made him at times wonder whether he would even be playing in 2019.
When he blew his ACL in the 2017 preseason in Detroit, his reaction was, “It’s over. Who’s going to want a 32-year-old wide receiver coming off an ACL?”
He came back but not before he had to serve a four-game suspension after failing a PED test at the start of the 2018 season.
Yet those low points – one beyond his control, the other self-inflicted – showed the resilience that’s gotten him where he is now.
What’s the “news” here? Let’s be honest, the chances of Edelman washing out here and then grasping to stay in the league with somebody like the Ravens seemed remote. And he isn’t absolutely busting the vault.
To me, the news is that the Patriots are doing right by a guy who was underpaid relative to his contributions and importance. They didn’t HAVE to go to the table with Edelman. They did.
The other news aspect is whether this hints at the end date for both Edelman and Brady. Brady, of course, still awaits his extension as he too is entering the final year of his deal. Do the Patriots sign Brady through 2021 as well and then make the break as Brady is turning 45?
The rest of this story is all about perspective and how far Edelman has come in six years since he was crying on his couch wondering what exactly to do.
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