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New England Patriots 2016 roster breakdown: #11 WR Julian Edelman

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The Patriots' leading receiver struggled with injuries in 2015 – and looks to bounce back in 2016.

Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

We have entered the deepest depths of the NFL offseason. Free agency and the draft are behind us, while minicamp and training camp won't start until early June and late July, respectively.

However, while the football world seemingly turns slower these days it does not stop. After all, by late August, each team has to start making its roster cuts. Until then, players have to secure their spots on the team; they need to do their jobs (well) or someone else will.

Over the course of the next few weeks, we will take a look at the men fighting for those spots on the 2016 New England Patriots. Today, we'll take a look at the team's leading receiver: Julian Edelman.

Name: Julian Edelman

Position: Wide receiver

Jersey number: 11

Age: 30

Experience: 7

Size: 5'10, 200 lbs.

2015 review: Before breaking his foot in the Patriots' week 9 contest against the New York Giants, Julian Edelman was having another stellar season in 2015: despite struggling with drops at times, he caught 61 passes for 692 yards and seven touchdowns as Tom Brady's go-to-wide receiver.

The injury forced Edelman to miss the rest of New England's regular season. He returned for the playoffs and quickly became his team's number one wideout again, displaying his trademark speed and quickness in the process and was an integral part of the offense regaining its pre-Edelman-injury form.

But while he looked good in the divisional round, catching 10 passes for 100 yards, Edelman was visibly slower and less shifty one week later. In short: he did not look as healthy as he did just one week earlier and as a result was less effective.

2016 preview: According to the Boston Herald's Jeff Howe, Edelman underwent surgery this offseason to insert a screw into his foot. And while this is not an ideal situation, Howe also notes that the optimism is "very high" that Edelman will be physically ready by the first day of training camp.

Unless the Patriots and their medical staff decide to ease Edelman back into the mix, he is expected to be the Patriots' number one wide receiver in 2016. After all, the 30-year old is the most experienced wideout on the roster and has shown time and again that he can get open no matter the coverage or the defensive backs playing against him.

Despite the offseason additions of fellow wide receiver Chris Hogan and tight end Martellus Bennett, Edelman should once again be the most targeted weapon in New England's offensive arsenal. Together with tight end Rob Gronkowski, he should also be the one seeing the most time on the field.

One thing Edelman is not expected to be in 2016 is the Patriots' punt returner. While he is the franchise's all-time leader in kick return touchdowns, Edelman is simply too valuable to be exposed to additional hits. With rookie cornerback Cyrus Jones being an able return man and wide receiver Keshawn Martin also fielding punts in the past, Edelman's special teams contributions will likely be nonexistent this year.

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As he has proven over the last two seasons, Edelman is the Patriots' most effective and most valuable wide receiver. With Tom Brady possibly missing the first four games of the year, his role within the offense arguably becomes even more important as he should be a key player in helping backup Jimmy Garoppolo find his comfort zone within the offense.

But no matter what New England's quarterback situation will actually look like, one thing seems certain: that Julian Edelman will once again be a key cog in the Patriots' offensive machinery.