Should Patriots Re-Sign Julian Edelman Before Wes Welker?

Julian Edelman Patriots

Is Julian Edelman poised to be a bigger part of the offense next year?

NEPD Staff Writer: Dan Hope

It isn’t hard to see how important wide receiver Wes Welker has been to the New England Patriots since joining the team in 2007.

Welker has been among the NFL’s top two in receptions in four of the past five seasons, and has been among the league’s top two in receiving yards for two of the past three. In the process, he has redefined the slot receiver position, advancing the role from a tertiary option to the primary weapon in the Patriots offense.

Welker, however, is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2012 season. The Patriots used the franchise tag to keep Welker in New England for this season, but if they want to keep him beyond this season, they are going to have to be ready to pay up.

The Patriots may be best suited in saving money by letting Welker sign elsewhere, and instead use a portion of the money they save to re-sign their other slot receiver, Julian Edelman, who will also be an unrestricted free agent.

The Patriots could re-tag Welker at a figure of $11,418,000 for the 2013 season, but they are unlikely to have him back unless they sign him to a long-term contract next season.

Understandably, Welker wants a long-term, big-money contract, and he deserves one. He remains one of the league’s most productive wide receivers at 31 years old. Because he is on the other side of 30 and not a prototypical, big-play wideout, he would not come close to receiving Calvin Johnson or Larry Fitzgerald money, but should still be able to command a contract on the open market for four or five years at the salary of second-tier top receivers.

On the other end of the equation, the Patriots’ hesitancy to commit to Welker with a long-term contract also makes sense. The Patriots have started a movement in recent years to keep their roster young aside from a few veteran standouts, and moving on from Welker seems to be a logical next step.

The Patriots have already committed big money into long-term contract for their two most explosive players, their 23-year-old tight ends. This past offseason, the Patriots signed Rob Gronkowski to a six-year, $53 million contract extension that runs through 2019, then followed suit by signing Aaron Hernandez to a five-year, $40 million extension through 2018.

For salary cap reasons, the Patriots have to be very cautious about signing another offensive skill player to a big contract. The Patriots were able to afford to pay Welker a franchise-tag deal this season, as Gronkowski and Hernandez are both still on their rookie deal figures for this season. The Patriots cannot afford to pay Welker what would likely be upwards of $8 million for the long term, however.

The Patriots are also risk of losing Edelman, but the Patriots should be able to sign him to a two- or three-year deal at a much cheaper rate than Welker. Even simply in terms of just personnel, keeping the 26-year-old Edelman may be the smarter move.

Welker is the NFL’s best slot receiver, and taking him off the roster would certainly be a big blow to the Patriots’ intermediate-passing game, the basis of their offense. Welker is more replaceable, however, than either Gronkowski or Hernandez would have been, and for as good as Welker is, a large part of his success can also be attributed to how he fits in the Patriots’ offensive system.

Edelman has enough slot receiver ability to step up and play a part in filling Welker’s shoes, while he also adds additional value for his ability to contribute in a wide variety of areas.

Edelman showed just how valuable he could be as arguably the most valuable player of the Patriots’ 59-24 over the Colts on Sunday.

Edelman had his most productive receiving game of the season, gaining 58 yards off five receptions, most of which came off his ability to gain yards after the catch on screens and short passes. But he also did so much more. He gained 47 yards on an end-around run, forced a fumble inside the 15-yard line on kickoff coverage and gained a whopping 117 yards on just two punt returns, including a 68-yard touchdown return.

Edelman has fantastic versatility and can help the Patriots in so many ways. On offense, he has the ability to be a very valuable in the passing offense, while he can also be a rushing threat. He has tremendous value on special teams as a dynamic punt returner, as well as being a very solid player as a tackler on kickoff and punt coverage.

Edelman even displayed last season that he can provide emergency depth in the secondary. He spent some time late last season playing nickel cornerback and safety when the Patriots’ defensive backfield became decimated by injuries, and more than held his own.

Any time the Patriots can keep a young, versatile player without having to overpay, you can count on them to do it. Therefore, the Patriots not only should, but should be expected to, make a strong effort to re-sign Edelman to a long-term deal sooner rather than later. If that is the case, they may in fact be signing Edelman to fill the shoes of Welker, because they may be unable to re-sign the latter, especially if they keep the former.

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8 Responses to “Should Patriots Re-Sign Julian Edelman Before Wes Welker?”

  1. CC says:

    If Welker is going then he should be going to a team with no less than the seventh overall pick on a tean that would love and need him both. Currently 7th is the RAMS. Sam Bradford & Jeff Fisher would love WW, be more than happy 2 come off that pick for him and we could tag a player on our D line that can compliment Big Vince Wilfork & help give our LB Core and BackField better time 2 gel.

  2. BAMN says:

    Welker will be gone and the offense will have to change as the slot will be Edelman and Hernandez (if healthy) so they will need to grab another small guy (unless they beleive in Salas) and a big guy for competition against Lloyd.

    This can all come via FA or draft. They will also need to address the interior oline as well.

    Otherwise, CB/S, DE, DT are other needs that need to be looked after on the defense. flip a coin on CB or S – it may depend on if he performs the Pats can sign Talib to long term contract.

    Chung will be gone unless he comes back w a discount $$$ so in theory it could be McCourty/Wilson at S and Dennard, Arrington, Talib at CB – if no changes are mde. The DB coaches ahve to do a ebtter job – it seems every rookie that has done well in the 1st years suck in the 2nd – McCourty, Butler etc. Arrington performed better but was nto as stressed his rookie year.

    With 2013 draft picks of 1, 2, 3 and 7 – doubt we will find what we really need. Most likely Pats come in about 25/26 (according to the website mocks) and they would likely move down as the rookie talent sitting there is not good enough to find starters.

  3. Oppitz says:

    Edelman is always hurt, even with his limited role, I dont think he could be a dependable player. Imagine him taking all those hits Welker takes… He woundt last 3 games.

  4. td says:

    After the Gronk & Hernandez extensions kick in next year–bye bye Wes.

  5. george steinberg says:

    welker should have been signed up for a long term contract.he’s still has the speed,the savvy, and he’s been great for the pats since he got here.
    bob kraft;sign him up right now and stop fooling around.

  6. td says:

    Love Wes, but we also have to sign Vollmer, Donald Thomas and Woodhead. He’s gonna have to come in way under $9million/yr.

  7. AM says:

    Remarkable that we’re having this conversation again. It was a two months ago that fans and media were lamenting Welker’s absence from the offense, and talking about how Edelman just couldn’t fill his shoes. Welker is proven and consistent, unbelievably tough, better at getting open on the inside than any player in the league, and possesses a rapport with Brady that can’t be duplicated, faked, or forced. Gronkowski is the only player who has come close to match that chemistry in the last decade, and I’m including Deion Branch and Troy Brown on that list. I disagree with the notion that Welker would be less successful with, say, Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees throwing to him, but to the extent that he is more valuable to New England than other teams, the math works both ways–he’s always Brady’s safety valve, and is better than any other player in the NFL would be in that role.

    Edelman is a nice player, but it remains to be seen if the big game against the Colts was a breakout or a high point. It would be smart to lock him up, but only as a complement to Welker, not a replacement. The salary cap issue is a real one, but given that Lloyd is on relatively short money for a player of his caliber, the team can afford at least a three-year deal for Welker while still keeping Edelman around as a third wideout.

    • BAMN says:

      Welker would do well with Rodgers but he is just a guy as even Cobb is not getting the throws as much as he could. Brees though would enable Wes to still be tops as you have Colston, Graham and then who???

      Col/Gram run great routes have good hands that would open up the middle for Wes. Col jsut needs to stay healthy. But Saints avhe their own $$$$ problems with contracts and half the team will eb gone after this season.

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