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Is Julian Edelman truly retired?

Julian Edelman's postseason numbers stack up with the best in NFL history. But his regular season stats will likely hold him back from a trip to Canton and the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

In the aftermath of Super Bowl LIII, the talk began of receiver Julian Edelman as a candidate for Canton. Our take at the time was that he still has more work to do to get there.

Two years later, he added a 1,117-yard season in 2019 (the third of his career), a three-catch, 30-yard postseason performance to cap that season, and 21 catches for 315 yards in six games last year. If he has retired, and if he won’t be unretiring, that’s still not enough to get to the Hall of Fame.

It just isn’t. Yes, he’s a Super Bowl MVP. So is Hines Ward. And Ward has 380 more career catches and 5,822 more receiving yards that Edelman. And Ward’s not in yet.

But even if/when Ward gets in, Edelman simply hasn’t done enough to get there. It can be argued that he would have done more if, for example, the Patriots hadn’t had Wes Welker in the early years of Edelman’s career. But that’s on Edelman; if you can’t beat Welker to get onto the field, how can you beat Welker (who also has far better career numbers than Edelman) to enshrinement?

Here’s why we’re writing this. Edelman could still return. Retirements, as we’ve learned time and again, aren’t binding. Even when announced via a video that creates the clear impression that: (1) he’s done; and (2) he’d never play for any team other than the Patriots.

Less than two weeks ago, Edelman posted an April Fool’s Day gag about joining Tom Brady in Tampa Bay. Would anyone be shocked if that’s what happens?

Sure, he said in the retirement video that the wheels have come off. Just last week, however, the Boston Herald reported that it’s “doubtful” Edelman will be able to play a full 2021 season. This implies that he’ll be able to play some of 2021.

The Buccaneers don’t need him now. They don’t need him in August. Or September. Or October or November. He could join the team for the stretch run to get up to speed, with the goal of contributing in the playoffs. And he could then add to his postseason legacy, maybe even with another Super Bowl MVP award.

An unretirement currently seem unlikely in light of his health. However, as the NFL explained it earlier this morning via email, because Edelman has been cut by the Patriots, he won’t be subject to PED testing. Edelman, who was suspended four games in 2018 for PED use, could now -- in theory -- do whatever he has to do over the next several months without fear of PED testing, in an effort to get his knee right for one last ride in Tampa.

It wouldn’t be fair to mention the possibility of pharmaceutical intervention if Edelman hadn’t already been suspended for PEDs. But he was. So it’s fair to point this out when trying to read the tea leaves for a potential unretirement, a possible reunion with Tom Brady and Gronk in Tampa, and a potential run at what would be Super Bowl win number four for Edelman.

Is it likely to happen? Probably not. Is it a possibility that should be ignored? Definitely not.