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New England Patriots 2018 roster breakdown: #11 WR Julian Edelman

The veteran returns off a stint on injured reserve.

Super Bowl LI - New England Patriots v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The New England Patriots currently have the maximum of 90 players on their active roster. However, only 53 of them will be able to survive the cutdowns on September 1 and ultimately make the team. Over the next weeks, we will take a look at the players fighting for those spots to find out who has the best chances of helping the Patriots recapture the Vince Lombardi Trophy.

Today, the series continues with the team's most experienced wide receiver.

Name: Julian Edelman

Position: Wide receiver

Jersey number: 11

Opening day age: 32

Experience: 9

Size: 5’10, 200 lbs.

2017 review: Coming off one of the best seasons of his career and with a new two-year, $11.0 million contract in hand, expectations were high for Julian Edelman entering the 2017 campaign. However, it all came to a crashing halt in late August when the veteran tore his ACL during the Patriots' third preseason game: After catching a pass on the game's opening series, Edelman planted his right foot when his knee buckled and his season ended.

New England placed the veteran on injured reserve prior to roster cutdowns, shutting him down for the year as only players put on the reserve list after cutdown day are eligible to be brought back. Four weeks after the injury, Edelman underwent surgery and has been rehabbing ever since then.

2018 preview: Nine months removed from his knee injury, Edelman returned to the practice fields for the Patriots' organized team activities and minicamp. While the club is bringing him back slowly – he only recently returned to full-speed 11-vs-11 action – there is little doubt that the 32-year old will be physically ready once the season starts. Whether or not the NFL allows him to play on week one is another story, though.

After all, Edelman is currently appealing a four-game suspension for violating the league's policy on performance enhancing drugs. The process will be completed in the upcoming weeks but there is a realistic chance that he is forced to at least miss some time and start the regular season off New England' 53-man roster and on the team's reserve/suspended list.

Whenever he returns, Edelman is projected to be a key member of a New England offensive attack that lost the top two wide receivers from a year ago. With Brandin Cooks and Danny Amendola playing elsewhere this year, Edelman becomes even more valuable as Tom Brady’s safety blanket. He will therefore once again be among the team leaders in catches and other receiving statistics.

And even though the Patriots have one of the deepest skill position groups in all of football, it would be a surprise to see Edelman – barring another injury – on the field for fewer than the 80.3% of offensive snaps he played in 2016. After all, his intelligence, route running ability and connection with Brady make him a valuable and reliable cog in the offensive machinery.