Julian Edelman will almost certainly be remembered as a lifelong Patriot, going from late-round backup to Super Bowl MVP and one of the most productive wide receivers the NFL playoffs have ever seen. All indications, however, are that 2020 could be his last season in New England. He's older and coming off knee surgery for a team set to rebuild, and his release this offseason would save the franchise about $4 million. Coach Bill Belichick, meanwhile, doesn't sound particularly confident the veteran will return.
As the 2021 offseason fast approaches, we decided to take an early look at where Edelman could land, assuming he's played his last game as a Patriot. Here are five logical suitors:
Edelman grew up right in the Bay Area. Entering his age-35 season, the West Coast weather would make for a sunnier alternative to Foxborough. More importantly, the Niners might need wideouts more than anyone except for ... the Patriots? Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk are versatile playmakers, but Edelman would give them a more reliable intermediate target. He also wouldn't cost much.
As a longtime Patriot, Edelman knows how feisty the Giants can be. Better yet, he's on record praising the passion of coach Joe Judge, who spent eight years alongside the wideout in New England, including one as Edelman's WRs coach. Judge, meanwhile, is bound to cut ties with the pricey Golden Tate in the slot, leaving a veteran void at the position. What better way to help young Daniel Jones in 2021 than by giving him an ultra-hard-working target in Edelman?
The Titans have some big decisions to make at WR, where Corey Davis is slated to hit free agency and Adam Humphries looks like a potential cap casualty with $21M due over the next two years. Should Humphries go, Edelman would be a natural replacement in the slot -- a surefire favorite for the steady Ryan Tannehill. GM Jon Robinson was the Patriots' director of scouting when New England drafted Edelman back in 2009, and coach Mike Vrabel would vouch for his no-nonsense Pats background.
Edelman and Dolphins coach Brian Flores spent 10 years together in New England, so the latter is well aware of the WR's work ethic. More than that, Miami will almost certainly be looking for reinforcements at the position, both young and old. Even if he's rotating with someone like Lynn Bowden Jr., Edelman makes all the sense in the world as a short-term building block for an efficient, quick-strike offense led by Tua Tagovailoa. He also might not mind playing the Patriots twice a year.
You wouldn't necessarily peg them as an obvious fit, but the connections are abundant. Edelman knows the area, starring at Kent State just down the road from Cleveland. The Browns' WRs coach and passing game coordinator, Chad O'Shea, spent 10 years as Edelman's WRs coach in New England. And Cleveland could use another sure-handed short-area target for the run-first offense they want to run with Baker Mayfield. In the event they actually move Odell Beckham Jr., they'll be even more motivated to add WRs to prolong their current window of contention.