During their days in New England together, it was no secret that Tom Brady and Julian Edelman had a bromance. Off the field, the two appeared to be as thick as thieves, with Brady once dubbing him the little brother he never had. On the field, they formed one of the best quarterback-receiver duos in the NFL. Despite Edelman's campaign to keep his quarterback in Foxborough, Brady decided to sign with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in free agency this offseason, ending a two-decade run with the Patriots and a decade-long relationship playing alongside Edelman.
While their bond likely extends beyond the football field, that decision by Brady is now being used as fuel for Edelman as he prepares for the 2020 season. An anonymous Patriots player told Mike Giardi of the NFL Network, "Julian is Julian. He hates excuses. He hates to lose. He's already got the red ass about this season. People thinking we're no good and [that] he's just a product of Brady."
Giardi also notes that Edelman has been a regular at throwing sessions this offseason, Jarrett Stidham, who seemingly has the inside track at being QB1 in New England this season.by second-year quarterback
Playing the "nobody believes in us" card is hardly rare for the Patriots, who famously used it as motivation en route to their most recent Super Bowl title in 2018. Trying to prove that they are still a force to be reckoned with without Brady, however, is a new and much more difficult wrinkle to prove to the rest fo the league.
For Edelman, the 2016 season is really the only sort of sample that we can look at when trying to figure out what the 34-year-old receiver will look like without Brady. During Brady's four-game suspension back that year, we saw a month of production from Edelman without TB12, albeit being a bit tainted following Jimmy Garoppolo's shoulder injury, which thrust rookie Jacoby Brissett into the lineup. In any event, Edelman hauled in 19 receptions over those four games for 196 yards and had a reception percentage of 70.4% (for what it's worth, Edelman caught all seven of his targets for 66 yards in his lone full game with Garoppolo). If you expand that over a 16-game regular season, that would equate to 76 receptions for 784 yards receiving.
That's a far cry from Edelman's 100-catch season he enjoyed in 2019, which also included a career-high 1,117 yards receiving, but, again, you do need to account that he was playing with a rookie quarterback in Brissett for half that time. Whether it's Stidham or Brian Hoyer throwing him the football in 2020, it'll be a more seasoned quarterback this time around.
Over the course of his 10-year run with the Patriots, Edelman has put together a career that does have people wondering if he'll one day be enshrined in Canton as a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Almost all of that production, however, has come with Brady throwing him the football. If he's able to go out in 2020 and beyond and sustain his level of productivity, it could a long way in proving that he was not just the beneficiary of playing with the greatest quarterback of all time and, in turn, further improve his chances of being in gold jacket discussions.