First in a series looking at each of the Patriots pending free agents:
Name: Julian Edelman
Position: Wide receiver / kick returner
2012 Season: Played in the slot and on the outside for the Patriots serving as the team's #3 receiver when healthy. Finished the season with 21 passes and 3 touchdowns in 9 games and was also the team's primary punt returner. He finished the year on injured reserve with a foot injury.
Why the Patriots should re-sign him: Edelman has been one of the team's most versatile pieces over the past several seasons, contributing on offense, defense, and special teams. He's arguably the Patriots most dangerous open field runner and in 2012, he proved that he can be a reliable target in the passing game. He'll likely come on the cheap, following an injury-shortened season, and could be a cost-effective option for the slot if the Patriots let Wes Welker walk. His contributions as a punt returner and on coverage units make him worthy of a roster spot regardless of his role on offense.
Why the Patriots should let him walk: Edelman has struggled to stay healthy throughout his career, and asking him to take over a bigger role on the offense could be a dangerous proposition. Edelman has also had a tough time over the years securing a consistent role on the offense, and that has to be a slight concern. If the Patriots do end up re-signing Welker, and a market grows for Edelman's services, the Patriots could choose to look in another direction.
Bottom Line: Edelman is a wild card for the Patriots who could end up being the team's next starting slot receiver, re-sign as a back-up, or could end up walking via free agency. At the end of the day, I think he'll re-sign.
Prediction: Re-signs for three years, $9 million