When Julian Edelman spoke about retirement earlier this offseason, he noted that he would not be at that point just yet. But even with the 34-year-old planning on returning for a 12th season with the New England Patriots, his future remains murky.
Edelman is still bothered by a chronic knee ailment that forced him to undergo surgery last year and eventually led to him ending his 2020 campaign on the Patriots’ injured reserve list. He will give it a go and continue to prepare for the upcoming season, but according to a report by Karen Guregian of the Boston Herald is unlikely to play the full year:
According to a source familiar with Edelman’s situation, it’s doubtful he will be able to play the entire 2021 season. The knee has already hampered him for the better part of two years.
This situation creates a problem for a Patriots team that is trying to rebuild its passing offense after a challenging 2020 season. A healthy Edelman is one of the most reliable wide receivers in football and a viable top option in New England’s scheme, but his health has been a major question mark over the last two seasons.
In 2019, Edelman was active throughout the season and only missed minimal playing time. However, he was listed on the team’s injury report in 13 of a possible 17 weeks while dealing with a chest issue suffered in September, a shoulder injury added in November, and a knee injury sustained in December. He later underwent both a knee scope during the 2020 offseason and surgery to repair a separated AC joint in his left shoulder.
2020 was no better to him. Long-time quarterback Tom Brady left the Patriots in free agency, the Coronavirus pandemic impacted the entire year — Edelman himself spent some time on the Reserve/Covid-19 list — and the wideout himself struggled to have his usual impact due to a nagging knee injury.
He played a comparatively limited role over the first half of the season before undergoing surgery on his knee in late October. Even though he did return to the practice field in December, Edelman never actually was activated to the 53-man roster. He therefore ended his season on the sidelines and with just six in-game appearances as well as 21 catches for 315 yards.
Since the official end of his season four months ago, Edelman has been focused on rehabbing and spending time with his daughter.
“I’m getting there,” he said during a podcast appearance in January. “It was a rough year when it came to just my physicality and how I felt. It’s tough, but this is the time where you sit, and you self-reflect, and you self-evaluate, and you self-scout yourself through all last year. You’re really go in and try to develop a formula, and try to develop a game plan for how you’re going to attack the offseason. That’s the process I’m in right now.”
With the rehabbing, the Patriots tried to rebuild their struggling wide receiver room. Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne were added in free agency, with more additions possibly coming via the draft. As for the MVP of Super Bowl 53, his role in the wide receiver room appears to be up in the air.
The veteran may be one of the most accomplished wide receivers in the league, and as such the leader of New England’s wide receiver room, but his recent injury history cast some doubt over his return for the 2021 season. Add the fact that he has a salary cap hit of $6.1 million in the final year of his contract, and he appears to be even less of a lock to be kept by the only club that ever rostered him over the course of his career.
While it remains to be seen whether or not Edelman will be back in a Patriots uniform next season, one thing seems certain: he will not go down, and end his career, without a fight.