Yesterday started with a report that the New England Patriots and wide receiver Julian Edelman were closing in on a contract extension. A few hours later, the extension was a done deal: Edelman signed a two-year contract, which will pay him a maximum of $19.5 million to stay with New England through the 2019 season.
Let’s take a look at what this means for the player and the team:
Edelman might finish his career with the Patriots
In May, Edelman celebrated his 31st birthday. After the final year of his newly signed extension and two months after potentially hitting unrestricted free agency, he will turn 34 – a rather old age for a wide receiver in the NFL. It is therefore certainly possible that the former seventh round pick calls it quits at that point. And why would he not? Edelman plays one of the most physical positions in sports and has already achieved almost everything. Going wire-to-wire with the team that drafted him would be the icing on the cake.
The Patriots address their 2018 free agency class early...
New England has a number of key contributors about to enter free agency following the 2017 season. Addressing the group early – free agency starts in nine months – is certainly a smart move giving its sheer volume and quality: Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, fellow wide receiver Danny Amendola, left tackle Nate Solder, defensive edge Rob Ninkovich, cornerback Malcolm Butler and key special teamers Matthew Slater and Brandon King are all among those up for contract extensions.
...and lock down their wide receiver core in the process
The Patriots enter the 2017 season with the following players joining Edelman as the core wide receivers: Brandin Cooks, Chris Hogan, Danny Amendola and Malcolm Mitchell. All project to see valuable snaps at the position alongside Edelman. And all but Amendola are signed beyond this year as Cooks and Hogan are scheduled to hit free agency following the 2018 season, with Edelman and Mitchell doing the same one year later. New England's core will therefore stay intact for at least two more years.
The Patriots' number one wideout continues to be a bargain...
Not only is Edelman one of the most consistent and productive wide receivers in the NFL – and has been ever since becoming the team's number one receiver in 2013 – he is also one of the league's top bargains. With his extension part of the equation, he will earn a maximum of $19.5 million over the next three years.
To put the numbers into perspective: The maximum yearly average Edelman can reach is $6.5 million. 23 other wide receivers – among them such illustrious names like Tavon Austin, Kenny Britt or Robert Woods – have a higher per-season average than the two-time Super Bowl winner, who continues to play under what appears to be his potential market value.
...by playing it safe
If he wanted to maximize his value as a free agent, Edelman could have speculated on receiving a deal next year. However, until then a lot could have happened – be it an injury or a drop in productivity due to the Patriots' acquisition of Brandin Cooks. Signing a deal now is therefore a smart move by the veteran wideout that still pays him considerable dollars.
Edelman takes a hometown discount – unlike Wes Welker did in 2013
As noted above, Edelman's contract extension is a relative bargain considering his past production and role in the Patriots' offense. As a result, he did not follow the example set by one of his predecessors at the position, Wes Welker. New England's former top wideout entered free agency in 2013 and unlike Edelman did not take a hometown discount:
Offer to Welker (unrestricted free agent; soon-to-be 32) in 2013:
2 years, $10.0 million; extra $6.0 million in incentives
Contract with Edelman (unrestricted free agent; soon-to-be 32) in 2017:
2 years, $11.0 million; extra $4.0 million in incentives
Both extension offers were relatively similar; Edelman's includes more guarantees with Welker getting more total money. Still, Welker decided to test the open market and ultimately signed a two-year, $12 million deal with the Denver Broncos. At that point, New England had already signed fellow free agent wideout Danny Amendola to a five-year, $28.5 million deal.