And Edelman, himself, just announced his retirement via social media — in a four-minute video where he closed with two words: “Foxboro Forever.”
Foxboro Forever pic.twitter.com/x3SDDPJoTX
— Julian Edelman (@Edelman11) April 12, 2021
Julian Edelman almost 35 years old, and after being limited toward the end of the 2019 season and 2020 playoffs — his last run with former Patriot quarterback Tom Brady — the 2020 season was unkind to him, as a nagging knee injury forced him to hit the injured reserve in October.
But what if Julian Edelman ever gets the itch to play again? And his knees get right? It’s not uncommon in professional sports, and his playoff experience — where his 118 postseason catches trails only Jerry Rice (151) — could be just the lift a team needs to stay in contention.
One good three-game run in a divisional round, conference championship game, and Super Bowl could put Julian Edelman on top of Rice as (at least statistically) the best playoff performer in NFL history, and he’s already well up there with one of the best Super Bowl catches of all-time in a comeback win over the Atlanta Falcons.
So, where would he likely be welcome?
Julian Edelman, if he reconsiders retirement as Gronk did:
1) Tampa Bay Buccaneers
This choice just seems obvious. Like, “Captain Obvious” obvious.
Former Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski postponed further retirement plans in 2020 to rejoin with his former quarterback, and all it did is lead to 45 catches for 623 yards and seven touchdowns in the regular season, eight catches, 110 yards and two more scores in the postseason — and another Super Bowl ring on his hand.
Could Edelman — Brady’s longtime middle-of-the-field blanket on those cold days in New England — be persuaded to do the same, perhaps on a veteran’s minimum contract?
The possibility is intriguing. Julian Edelman had the most productive season of his career just two years ago in 2019, when he finished with 100 catches and a personal-best 1,117 yards receiving before Brady and the Pats were bounced by the Tennessee Titans in the opening round of the 2020 NFL playoffs.
But Julian Edelman might be interested in warmer climates and the potential of a better storybook ending with his former signal-caller, as the Buccaneers look like strong repeat candidates with a replete roster.
The only question here: Is the 34-year-old receiver looking for a leading role? Because between Chris Godwin, Mike Evans, Gronkowski and speedster Scotty Miller, there may not be enough touches for all those hands.
2) Cleveland Browns
Before Julian Edelman carved out a stellar NFL career in New England, he was a highlight-reel quarterback for his college team in Kent State — motoring for more than 4,900 yards passing and 2,400 yards rushing through three seasons (2006-08) in the MAC.
Maybe it’s a stretch, but Kent, Ohio is only 45 minutes outside of Cleveland, and the Browns have a pretty prolific offense under quarterback Baker Mayfield and coach Kevin Stefanski.
The Browns were third in the NFL rushing the football in 2020 (2,374 yards, 21 touchdowns), but just 24th overall in passing yardage (3,539 yards, 27 touchdowns). With Odell Beckham Jr. injured and shelved, veteran wideout Jarvis Landry led the team with 840 yards receiving on 72 catches, and Mayfield wound up turning to a spread of passing options in RB Kareem Hunt, TE Austin Hooper, WR Rashard Higgins and TE Harrison Bryant throughout the year.
Would Julian Edelman be interested in staying in the AFC and helping a contender, while getting closer to his alma mater? Another fine career option, and Edelman loves Kent State.
3) San Francisco 49ers
The Redwood City, California native grew up less than hour outside of San Francisco, and he certainly frequents the SoCal area frequently. Julian Edelman found some trouble back home following the end of the 2019 NFL season.
If Julian Edelman still has anything left in the tank and wants to get closer to childhood and his Pop Warner football days, there’d be no better way to do it than join up with the 49ers.
Not only does Julian Edelman already possess a bit of rapport with former New England backup quarterback and expected 2021 San Francisco starter Jimmy Garoppolo, but the 49ers could use some additional wideout pedigree on the roster. Leading pass catcher Brandon Aiyuk (60 catches, 748 yards) is back and a healthy George Kittle — who combined for more than 3,000 yards over the last 2 1/2 seasons — will help the offense, but 2020’s second-leading wideout, Kendrick Bourne, is now in New England. Former Los Angeles Chargers wideout Travis Benjamin only caught six passes last year, and longtime veteran Mohamed Sanu is still seeking a bounce-back season after a tough 2020 campaign.
The Bay isn’t the worst place for Julian Edelman to land, if he ever decides to give his knees another go.