New England Patriots: Julian Edelman
New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick has job security. His three counterparts in the AFC East? Not so much.
Rex Ryan landed a contract extension this offseason, but don't let that fool you. He will have reason to be nervous if the New York Jets miss the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season. The Buffalo Bills' 6-10 record last season wasn't ominous for Doug Marrone -- that was just his first year on the job. But with an ownership change on the horizon, a failure to improve in 2014 might not bode well for Marrone.
Then there is Joe Philbin of the Miami Dolphins. He survived a bullying scandal that took place in his locker room and on his practice field. A late-season collapse that cost Miami a playoff berth couldn't sink Philbin, not when you consider the adversity the team fought through just to be in contention. But now Philbin enters his third year, when a lot is expected of a regime. He is likely out of second chances.
The four writers who cover the division -- Rich Cimini in New York, Mike Reiss in New England, Mike Rodak in Buffalo and James Walker in Miami -- offered their insights on the AFC East hot seat and other key topics. They also polled their Twitter followers to find out if they saw the issues differently.
Which AFC East coach enters camp on the hottest seat?
Rich Cimini: Doug Marrone's seat is lukewarm and Rex Ryan's is warm. Joe Philbin? Let's just say his tush is feeling extreme heat. Frankly, I'm a bit surprised he survived last season's debacle. Not only did the Dolphins collapse down the stretch to blow a playoff spot, but they became a national punchline because of the bullying scandal. The mess cost general manager Jeff Ireland his job, but Philbin emerged as the Teflon Man. He has now run out of mulligans. Philbin is working for a new GM, Dennis Hickey, and it's hard to imagine him returning in 2015 if the Dolphins miss the playoffs again. Philbin is an offensive-minded coach, but his offense -- quarterback Ryan Tannehill, in particular -- has shown no improvement. ... We would mention Bill Belichick's seat, except it's really not a seat. In this division, it's a throne.
Mike Rodak: This is a close race between Rex Ryan, Doug Marrone and Joe Philbin. Ryan faces the tough scrutiny of the New York market, and if the Jets' combo of quarterbacks Geno Smith and Michael Vick doesn't pan out, Ryan could be gone, despite his contract extension this year. In Buffalo, a pending ownership change naturally puts Marrone's future in doubt. I don't think CEO Russ Brandon or general manager Doug Whaley would fire Marrone even if things don't go well this season, but their voices might not matter if a new owner wants sweeping changes. In Miami, new GM Hickey has given Philbin his vote of approval, but how long will that last? If I had to pick one situation where the head coach's job is most in question, it's Philbin with the Dolphins.
James Walker: Miami's Joe Philbin has the hottest seat in the AFC East. After going a combined 15-17 his first two seasons, this year is really playoffs or bust for Philbin. He was fortunate to survive last year's late-season collapse and major locker-room issues with the bullying scandal that embarrassed the franchise. General manager Jeff Ireland and offensive coordinator Mike Sherman and others lost their jobs, but Miami owner Stephen Ross offered Philbin one more opportunity to prove he's the right coach for the team. The key for Philbin will be winning within the division. He is 4-8 against AFC East teams, and that won't cut it this season.
Which of your team's positional battles intrigues you the most?
Cimini: No question, it's the quarterback situation even though Geno Smith versus Michael Vick isn't a true open competition. No matter, it's still a compelling story, one that will create many headlines in training camp. It's Smith's job to lose, but I'm curious to gauge his development now that he has had a full season and a full offseason to immerse himself in the offense. More than anything, he should be better at seeing the field and reading defenses. How will he handle the pressure of knowing there is a capable replacement if he falters? Let's be honest, he never had to deal with that as a rookie. If Smith is outplayed by Vick, it will put the coaches in a delicate position. Clearly, they want Smith to be the starter, but they also have to consider the possible message it sends. If the best guy isn't playing, it's bad form. One position, so many fascinating subplots.
Reiss: Receiver looks like the Patriots' most compelling position battle. They are counting on big-time improvement from second-year players Aaron Dobson (second round), Josh Boyce (fourth round) and Kenbrell Thompkins (undrafted), while big 2013 free-agent signing Danny Amendola will be looking to prove he can stay healthy and recapture the magic we saw in the 2013 season opener. Veterans Julian Edelman and Brandon LaFell are also expected to play significant roles, and can slippery-quick seventh-round pick Jeremy Gallon be a sleeper? Lots of questions to answer.
Rodak: The starting spot that seems most up for grabs in Buffalo this offseason is at safety. Who will start opposite Aaron Williams? The Bills lost Jairus Byrd and didn't address the loss in free agency or the draft, instead putting their faith in two of their draft selections from last season -- Duke Williams (fourth round) and Jonathan Meeks (fifth round) -- as well as a more experienced veteran, Da'Norris Searcy. With Aaron Williams recovering from shoulder surgery for most of organized team activities, we didn't get a great feel for which player had the best shot to win Byrd's old job. In the few times that Williams was on the field, it was Searcy lining up with the first team, but Duke Williams and Meeks also got reps with the first unit throughout OTAs. It's a battle that will continue into training camp.
Walker: The Dolphins have a few good position battles, but I am most intrigued by the competition to be the slot receiver because of the immense depth at the position. The Dolphins have Brandon Gibson, Rishard Matthews and rookie second-round pick Jarvis Landry all competing for one spot. In addition, these receivers have different styles. Gibson is more detailed and cerebral. He gets open with his route-running. Matthews is the biggest and most physical receiver of the bunch. Landry is sort of a combination of the two, but he lacks blazing speed. I think all three are capable of handling the position. It's just a matter of who performs the best and which style the coaching staff prefers.
@mikerodak running backs look to be more interesting than I expected, and even though there isn't competition QB growth is #1- Bob rieth (@Bob_rieth) June 16, 2014
Which veteran on your team is poised for a breakout season?
Cimini: For several reasons, it should be Quinton Coples. After two nondescript seasons, it's time to turn potential into production -- and he knows it. The talent is there. With Coples, whose work ethic was questioned when he came out of North Carolina, it is a matter of want-to. Does he want to be great? The former first-round pick was slowed last season by a position change ("rush" linebacker) and a fractured ankle in the preseason, which cost him three games. Now he should be comfortable at the position and he dropped weight in the offseason, which should help his quickness on the edge as a pass-rusher. Coples has the ability to turn a middling pass rush into a very good one.
Reiss: With the Patriots bolstering their secondary with Darrelle Revis, a player like third-year defensive end Chandler Jones could be a primary beneficiary of better coverage. He had six sacks as a rookie and followed that up with 11.5 last season. Could he hit 15 this season? As long as he stays healthy, it wouldn't surprise me.
Rodak: There was no shortage of breakout performers for the Bills last season, especially on defense. Defensive end Jerry Hughes, cornerback Leodis McKelvin, safety Aaron Williams and defensive tackle Marcell Dareus all enjoyed the best seasons. This season, I see two strong candidates for breakout performances: wide receiver Robert Woods and cornerback Stephon Gilmore. Woods had a strong start to last season -- he was a candidate for NFL rookie of the month in September -- but a revolving door at quarterback and a late-season ankle injury hampered his progress. If quarterback EJ Manuel bounces back from his up-and-down rookie season, Woods could stand to benefit. I would give him the edge to break out over Gilmore, a former first-round pick who was limited by a wrist injury most of last season but is among the better cornerbacks in the division when healthy.
Walker: Last season the Dolphins saw significant returns from a second-year defensive end, Olivier Vernon. He led the Dolphins with 11.5 sacks and really came on strong in 2013. So I'm going to stick with the same position and the same experience level and go with current second-year defensive end Dion Jordan. The Dolphins got little return for their No. 3 overall pick last year -- he had just 26 tackles and two sacks. But I like what I saw from Jordan during organized team activities and minicamp. Jordan hit the weight room hard this offseason and bulked up about 17 pounds. He's much stronger, which is key because Miami's coaching staff was concerned about Jordan's ability to stuff the run. Jordan should put up better numbers and be an all-around better player. His biggest issue is getting playing time behind Vernon and Pro Bowl defensive end Cameron Wake.
@JamesWalkerNFL Dion Jordan. Can't hold him back anymore. He will get 10 sacks and will be on the field 40 plays per game- Tom Ernisse (@ternisse13) June 4, 2014
How many years do you think Tom Brady has left?
Cimini: No doubt, Jets fans will celebrate the day Brady decides to call it quits. Statistically, he's in a two-year decline, but he played with such a patchwork receiving corps last season that it's hard to say he is going south. Brady, who turns 37 in August, should have at least two more Brady-like seasons. I'm basing that on recent history. After all, John Elway won his second Super Bowl at 38 -- and promptly retired. It's rare in the modern era for a quarterback to play well beyond 38. Brett Favre had a great year at 40, and Warren Moon enjoyed a good year at 38, but the examples are few and far between. The Patriots drafted Jimmy Garoppolo in the second round for a reason. Brady is signed through 2017, but I'd be mildly surprised if he's still around at the age of 40.
Reiss: I'm not going to be the one who bets against Tom Brady. I still see him playing at a high level through the completion of his current contract in 2017, and based on the way he takes care of his body, the dedication to his craft, and the desire to play as long as possible, I could see him going the Warren Moon route and playing into his 40s. It's all contingent on good health, but will Tom Brady still be slinging passes and winning games in the year 2020? Yup.
Rodak: I would peg Brady's window at 3-4 years. In the past, he has spoken about his fear of the "abyss" that will follow his playing career. Yet we've also seen him in the public eye as a father in recent years and I think he would embrace that role in retirement. The bigger question is whether Bill Belichick would ever "move on" from Brady or simply allow him to play -- and start -- as long as he'd like. Belichick is markedly unemotional when he makes personnel decisions, so I don't think he would necessarily let Brady dictate when his career ends. Even if Belichick's final season coincides with Brady's, I think Belichick would want to leave the organization in a good spot. That could mean handing over the reins to a younger starter if the situation calls for it.
Walker: I covered Brady for two seasons as ESPN.com's AFC East reporter. To me, he has always come off as a player who wished he could play football forever. You would be surprised how many NFL players are not that way. Brady isn't motivated by money or fame. I think there is a genuine love for the game and thirst for competition that will be hard for Brady to let go. That is why I expect Brady to hold on for as long as he can. I expect two or three more quality seasons, but I wouldn't be surprised if Brady tries to go longer. I think Brady is too competitive to walk away on his own. Father Time might have to pull him away from the NFL.
@MikeReiss Two. (hoping he goes out with a ring (a la John Elway)- Because i think he has less than 3 - I'm watching the back up QB battle.- Elizabeth (@capesquad) June 18, 2014
- Something that stood out to me late in practice was second-year linebacker Steve Beauharnais leading the defensive huddle with authority in 11-on-11 drills. I watched him put his hands on a teammate after barking out the play-call in a take-charge type of manner. Beaurharnais, the seventh-round pick from Rutgers, is a candidate to elevate into a Dane Fletcher-type reserve role in 2014.
- The Patriots were light at tight end, with only Michael Hoomanawanui and undrafted rookie Justin Jones on the field. Rob Gronkowski and D.J. Williams were present but not taking part in practice, while undrafted rookie Asa Watson was at the required Rookie Premeire event. Energetic assistant coach Brian Daboll was working the tight ends hard. Jones stands out with his height (6-8, 277) and he seems to have reliable hands. Because he's so big, fluidity with footwork in tight spaces (e.g. sharp cuts in cone drills) looks like it can be a challenge for him.
- With the light tight end crew, fullback James Develin broke down with the group and went through pass-catching and blocking drills with them.
- There was a quick tempo to the early part of practice, with coaches urging players to get lined up quickly as the offense went through some of its plays. Things eventually slowed down, but it was a good example of how the Patriots want to have the ability to play fast and the coaches created mental stress for the players. Along those lines, there was also plenty of signaling by defensive players, and the use of headsets by the coaching staff.
- Linebacker Jerod Mayo (torn pectoral muscle, Oct. 13) was on the field for most of the practice, a sign that his recovery has progressed well, as was expected after he met with reporters earlier this month.
- Just as we saw in the AFC-East clinching victory in Baltimore in December, second-year player Josh Kline lined up at left guard. In this case, it was because Logan Mankins wasn't present.
- Receivers Danny Amendola, Reggie Dunn and Kenbrell Thompkins, and running back Roy Finch, were a few players taking reps as punt returners. There were several parts of practice devoted to special teams, as is often the case.
- While more of the practice was about teaching, receiver Julian Edelman seemed to have a productive session with several catches. At one point, after a missed connection with Tom Brady along the right sideline, he was upset with himself and showed his frustration outwardly. With Edelman and Amendola paired together at times, the Patriots still seemed to be lacking that taller outside presence on sideline and downfield throws.
- Practice finished with players called over to a hill behind the second practice field, which they had to run multiple times. As Tom Brady noted later Friday night, it's an uphill climb for the team to get where it wants to go.
- The next organized team activity open to reporters is Thursday.
The Patriots’ leading receiver on Wednesday posted an interview segment from a fictional YouTube talk show he calls “Burgertyme” -- think Letterman, only filmed in someone’s basement. In the 5-minute clip, he, as the host, talks with teammate Chandler Jones.
We won’t give away the laughs, it’s worth checking out yourself (and note the cameo from punter Ryan Allen). We rarely see the lighter side of Patriots players, so it’s refreshing when we get a glimpse every once in a while.
And if you like that, check out his “Smoothietyme” from last week, or this one, in which he films himself catching punts using Google Glass.
Last week, Edelman and teammate Rob Gronkowski went back and forth in a meta T-shirt battle. Looks like Edelman got the last laugh there:
35. TE Rob Gronkowski (third at position)
58. RB Shane Vereen (26th at position)
61. WR Julian Edelman (24th at position)
66. RB Stevan Ridley (28th at position)
97. WR Danny Amendola (42nd at position)
111. QB Tom Brady (12th at position)
136. WR Aaron Dobson (51st at position)
148. Patriots defense/special teams (ninth as a unit)
152. K Stephen Gostkowski (second at position)
170. WR Brandon LaFell (57th at position)
As the piece notes, these rankings are based on a 10-team ESPN standard league with 16-player rosters, starting one quarterback, two running backs, two wide receivers, one tight end, one flex (RB/WR/TE), a team defense and a kicker.
Tim, I'm keeping this on the radar as well. After not drafting a tight end, Keller makes a lot of sense if the health checks out and a contract agreement can be reached. Perhaps with the Patriots set to enter a new phase of their offseason progression this upcoming week, with veterans joining rookies, it sparks some movement.
BamaPat (Mobile, Alabama): Mike, my issue with draft/free agency is our WRs. You and others have argued to let the youngsters develop before bringing in veterans. So here's the scenario: The rookie WRs from last year don't take the big step this year. Pats move on and draft rookies in 2015 draft. You and other media members give them two years to develop and they don't. Now you have a nearly 40-year-old QB wiith a rebuilding WR corps again. Your strategy is a good one with a QB in his prime; not with a QB turning 37 this year. That's a bad gamble. At some point you need to pull the trigger and bolster our WRs.
Fair enough, BamaPat. I just didn't see any sure-fire, easy-to-grab answers on the free-agent market and it's not like they haven't tried in that area. Emmanuel Sanders, signed to an offer sheet as a restricted free agent last year, could have helped. They tried with Reggie Wayne in the past and got rebuffed. So I don't think it's necessarily a lack of effort. In the end, this is the way it's unfolded, and I think at some point you have to invest in the development of these youngsters while layering the position with some experience (e.g. Julian Edelman, Brandon LaFell). In the end, this is what it comes down to for me: If Aaron Dobson doesn't become a top guy, it will be a big disappointment.
Jack, Boyce is a smart player but he said a couple of times last year that the mental aspect of football was a big jump from Texas Christian. He also came out after his junior season and that often requires an extra year of development at the position. I'd expect Boyce to compete for the kickoff return job while also vying for a role as a No. 3-5 option on the depth chart.
Hector (Providence, Rhode Island): Hey Mike, who would you see as early candidates for a new contract amongst the RB corps? We've got Stevan Ridley, Brandon Bolden, and Shane Vereen going into their final years. With Stephen Houston and James White coming in to provide competition (and potentially a roster spot), who do you see the Pats keeping after this season?
Hector, I'd lean toward Vereen at this point, but the key for him is similar to Edelman at this time last year. It's about staying healthy for a full season. If he does that, I'd think the Patriots would put him at the top of the list.
Marko (Back Bay): Are we all writing off Ryan Mallett too soon? Is it possible the team carries 3 QB's -- including Mallett next season?
Marko, I think they'll carry three this year, just as they did in 2011 with Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer and Mallett. But next year, when Mallett is an unrestricted free agent, it seems safe to assume he will want to pursue a starting job elsewhere.
Receivers coach Chad O'Shea has turned on the tape of Julian Edelman and Wes Welker, having Gallon study their every move.
Gallon is listed on the Patriots' official roster at 5-foot-8 and 184 pounds and he projects to the slot, where Edelman and Welker have done some of their best work. Since Edelman has played the position in the team's system most recently, he's been the focal point of film study.
"Just seeing how quick he is off the ball, how he uses his hands, how good he is at the top of his routes -- just trying to imitate that and do what he does," said Gallon, who holds the Michigan single-season record for receiving yardage with 1,373 yards.
That's one of the messages that Patriots coaches have stressed to all rookies since their arrival in town Sunday -- "You don't know anything, so watch the veterans and learn."
"I'm just here to follow and fit in," relayed Gallon, who added that the biggest obstacle he's had to overcome in football is his height. "If that means watching Edelman's film every day, that's what I'm doing. If he can give me any pointers, or at practice I'm watching him running routes 1-on-1 or even on air, as much knowledge as I can soak up from him or any receiver here is better for me. That's the way, to me, to becoming a great player."
Film study is a big part of it for a player who has long admired smaller receivers like Welker and Steve Smith of the Baltimore Ravens.
"I think that's the way to a coach's heart -- stay in the film room and learn everything you can as fast as you to get on the field as quick as you want to be," he said.
Gallon, who attended Apopka High School in Florida (also the alma mater of former Patriots safety Brandon Meriweather), said that he is aware of some of the Patriots' seventh-round success stories in the Bill Belichick era, a group that includes Edelman, quarterback Matt Cassel (2005), outside linebacker Tully Banta-Cain (2003), receiver David Givens (2002) and running back Patrick Pass (2000). He hopes to someday add his name to the list, and the first step to doing so is turning on the film.
It's only been five days, but make no mistake, Gallon is already getting his fill of Edelman and Welker.
Offseason moves creating a spark: “We’ve done some good things so far and it’s not over yet, right? I’m excited that Julian [Edelman] came back. He’s my guy. ... With Tom [Brady], you can pretty much do anything. So offensively, we’re looking good. Defensively, just adding a couple pieces, those guys are tremendous talents. Again, as a defensive end, you’re happy to have two great corners that can shut down two receivers at the same time. That’s awesome. And we have great safeties. Defensively, we’ve improved, but we have to put in the work. That starts now.
Bill Belichick’s involvement on defense helping ease the loss of assistant Pepper Johnson: “Having Bill involved with the defense all the time, that’s always helpful. Any time I have a question or there is something going on, I’ll go right to Bill and ask him, ‘Hey we’re doing this, we’re doing that, give me the stuff that I need to know.’”
Starting to see some more teammates: “Guys are starting to sprinkle in from traveling around. A lot of people go home and see their families. Now is the time to start coming back and start to get in shape, because we start up on the 22nd [for the voluntary offseason program].”
Motivation is high after AFC title game loss: “I’m very motivated. I need to get back to that game and we have to win it this time. ... It’s a lot of work, and to get back there I have to do it all over again. I’m up for the challenge. I want to get back there. ... I’m going to have a better year than I did last year, that’s my goal.”
Relaying one of his father's mottos: "I like pushing myself. Like my dad always said, 'pain is your friend.' There is nothing wrong with pushing yourself and being in a position that you test your limits."
Spending time on the set of the movie 'Entourage' this week. As we learned over Twitter, Edelman spent time with tight end Rob Gronkowski on the set 'Entourage' this week. Asked about the experience, Edelman reflected on first watching the show when he was in high school. "It was surreal to go out there and meet all the fellas and all the people that are in it and the people that are producing it and directing it," he said. "It was an awesome experience. [Mark] Wahlberg has helped me out with a lot of that stuff. He’s always asked if I wanted to come and be around it. He’s been such a great friend when it comes to that stuff." There was a light moment at the end of the conference call when Edelman was asked if he might be in the movie. "You’d have to ask Coach Belichick on that," he said, drawing laughter.
Comparing San Francisco to Boston. Edelman was asked about visiting the 49ers in free agency and the idea that it was his hometown team, as well as if he now considers himself a New Englander. On the second question, Edelman said, "You know, I’ve spent most of my adult life [in New England] so I can tell you right now, I know Boston better than I know San Francisco. I go to the Cape more than I go to Lake Tahoe. I mean, I guess I am a New Englander when it comes down to it. I don’t know the city of San Francisco that well but I grew up 30 miles south. I didn’t go to the city that often as an adult. Now in Boston, I’m there three times a week. I guess I would say I’m a New Englander."
Not only did he land a four-year contract from the Patriots with a maximum value of $19 million, of which $8 million is guaranteed, he also remained teammates with Brady.
“It would be very tough to leave him because he is my dawg,” Edelman said Thursday on a conference call, putting some extra emphasis on the last word.
Edelman and Brady, teammates since 2009 who have lockers next to each other at Gillette Stadium, were working out together at Southern California last week prior to the start of free agency. Brady has affectionately dubbed Edelman with the nickname "Minitron."
For Edelman, landing the big contract was meaningful considering the road he’d taken to that point – seventh-round draft choice making the transition from college quarterback to NFL wide receiver.
“It’s good to have a little security and knowing that a team believes in you enough to pay you that kind of stuff, and a little security on how many years I’ll be here,” Edelman said. “I’ve really never been in that situation. I’ve always felt like if I had a bad practice, I could potentially get cut the next day.
“It’s good to be back with this franchise. It’s a surreal moment.”
Edelman explained that the most difficult part of the free-agent process was preparing for the possibility to play elsewhere, because he had developed “a love” for the New England region and Patriots fans. Edelman took one free-agent visit, to the 49ers, his hometown team.
“That was like a little dream right there, I’m not going to lie,” he said, before reflecting on visiting 49ers training camp as a youngster.
But in the end, Edelman said the New England region feels like home as well.
Snapshots with Vollmer and Edelman. Recovering Patriots right tackle Sebastian Vollmer was all smiles at the Ed Block Courage Award dinner, while receiver Julian Edelman took us behind the scenes as he signed his contract (and still represents his alma mater, Kent State).
Revis and cornerback stats. Neil Paine, writing on FiveThirtyEight.com, looks closer at cornerback Darrelle Revis and the challenge of quantifying cornerback stats.
Give this free-agent class a B-plus. Pete Prisco, an NFL columnist for CBSSports.com, is handing out grades to teams for their free-agency moves. He gives the Patriots a B-plus, same mark he gives the Broncos. The Buccaneers get his only straight A.
X's & O's on Revis and Browner. Matt Bowen of Bleacher Report thinks safety Devin McCourty will quickly come to appreciate free-agent signees Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner, and gets deep into the X's and O's in explaining why.
Amendola and collateral damage. Gregg Rosenthal, who edited the "Around the League" blog on NFL.com, goes through his list of those affected most by free-agent decisions. Patriots receiver Danny Amendola lands on the list.
Hageman connected to Patriots in another mock. Don Banks of SI.com unveils his mock draft 2.0 and it's a familiar prospect slotted to the Patriots at No. 29 -- Minnesota's Ra'Shede Hageman. "The secondary got its attention with the Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner signings, but the defensive front seven still needs help," Banks writes. The Patriots.com mock draft tracker has many mocks in one place.
Patriots can't stop here at receiver. While Edelman's return is critical, the Patriots still need more at the position. That could come in the form of development from the second-year class of Aaron Dobson, Josh Boyce and Kenbrell Thompkins, another free-agent signing, the return to health of Danny Amendola or a draft pick. The status quo won't be good enough.
Don't forget punt return role. Coach Bill Belichick often talks about the importance of being strong in all three phases of the game -- offense, defense and special teams. The third phase, special teams, is sometimes overlooked. Along those lines, Edelman is one of the NFL's best punt returners and has been a game-changer at times with his dynamic work; his 12.3-yard punt-return average is the best mark in franchise history.
Trust with Brady. When Tom Brady began throwing this past Monday for the first time since the team's AFC Championship Game loss, Edelman was the receiver catching passes from him on USC's campus. It speaks to the bond and trust they've developed over the past five years.
When the market dictates a return. This situation was similar to last year when Edelman took a visit to the Giants before re-signing with the Patriots. The visit to another team gave him a chance to see how a different club valued him on the open market. Fast-forward to 2014, and Edelman's one visit this year was to the 49ers, on Friday, and that seemed to accelerate the process of his re-signing once again. No player wants to sell himself short, and that probably best explains why Edelman, who wasn't inclined to sign the Patriots' offer at the start of free agency, was ready to do so now. It will be interesting to see the financial terms of the deal and compare them to the contract the Patriots awarded Amendola in 2013, as Edelman outperformed the injured Amendola last year.
“[The Patriots are] trying to re-sign Julian Edelman, they want him back. But they want him back at a price and a number they have in mind,” Schefter said. “The Patriots have been pretty responsible and pretty thoughtful of the marketplace for certain players. So, they’ve given Julian Edelman an offer. Clearly, it’s not to his satisfaction. So it’s up to him to play this game, which isn’t really a game, it’s his business, to go out there to see, does San Francisco or another team value me more than New England? And if they do, how much more, and is it worth it to me to move? That’s what we’re going to find out today.
“I know [the 49ers are] interested. I spoke to them. We’ll see what happens with Julian Edelman there.”
“Revis and Wilfork are completely unrelated,” he said. “What happened was Vince Wilfork told the Patriots weeks ago, days ago, a long time ago, 'I am not taking a pay cut, I’m not doing that.’ So now New England is in a situation much like the Dallas Cowboys were when DeMarcus Ware said ‘I’m not going to take a pay cut.’
“So you get into these situations where the agent’s got to figure out the player’s value. He’s got to call around and say ‘Hey what’s Vince Wilfork worth to you on the open market? If he were to be free what would you be willing to pay him.’ You get a general idea of what your client would be worth on the open market.”
Schefter explained that Wilfork’s agent would compare the feedback he got from other teams to the restructured deal the Patriots are offering and decide from there the preferred route.
“Right now they’re in a standoff,” Schefter said. “The way it was described to me last night, it’s probably best for Vince Wilfork just to take a step back and we’ll see how the situation plays out. It’s not like we’re going to get an answer on this today. ... This is something that is its own negotiation even though he’s under contract.”
Edelman, who enters his sixth NFL season in 2014, is from Redwood City, Calif. This is the first reported visit this offseason for Edelman, whose representatives have been keeping lines of communication open with the Patriots.
New England has visited with free-agent receivers Brandon LaFell (Panthers) and Jason Avant (Eagles), but Edelman is still on the radar as well.
Perhaps the visit with the 49ers sparks some movement with Edelman's situation. It wasn't until Edelman visited the New York Giants last offseason as a free agent that it sparked his return to the Patriots on a one-year deal.
The biggest takeaways from the day:
All quiet surrounding Aqib Talib ... until Denver pounced. With top cornerbacks Brent Grimes (Dolphins), Sam Shields (Packers) and Vontae Davis (Colts) re-signing with their teams, and Alterraun Verner (Buccaneers) inking a deal late Tuesday, it initially left Talib as the top remaining corner on the market. Verner’s reported deal (4 years, $26.5 million, $14 million guaranteed) came in low compared to the other top corners and at that moment, from a Patriots perspective, it seemed like a positive development that Talib didn’t generate an immediate market. But then the Broncos swooped in with a big-money deal for Talib that was a shocker.
Wesley Woodyard an early target. With a top linebacker trio of Jerod Mayo, Dont’a Hightower and Jamie Collins, the Patriots weren’t forecast to be aggressive at the position early in free agency. But Woodyard’s availability had the Patriots springing to action to bring the former Denver Bronco to town on Wednesday, and Woodyard is scheduled to visit the Tennessee Titans after coming to Foxborough, according to ESPN’s Josina Anderson. It’s rare to see the Patriots target an undersized linebacker this aggressively, but with more of the game being played in sub defenses (67 percent of the snaps for New England in 2013), it appears that the Patriots view a speedy, coverage-based 'backer as an important addition.
Dane Fletcher draws early visit. If you had Fletcher taking a free-agent visit (Tampa Bay) before fellow linebacker Brandon Spikes, you might consider buying a lottery ticket. That Fletcher has drawn such early interest likely punches his ticket out of town. Woodyard, if he’s signed, would immediately slide into that type of role and would represent an upgrade.
Isaac Sopoaga’s contract remains unchanged. While it seems unlikely that the Patriots will keep Sopoaga on the roster at a $3.5 million base salary, there has been no change in the veteran defensive tackle’s status. One possible reason: Until the Patriots have some clarity with Vince Wilfork’s contract situation (he’s scheduled to earn $7.5 million in base salary but the club might be looking for an adjustment of some kind), they might be more inclined to hold on to Sopoaga.
Of all the Patriots-related activity from free agency, the situation with the most layers to dissect was with Edelman. The door isn’t closed on his return, as the sides are keeping open dialogue, but it’s clear that whatever Edelman hoped would be there for him on the open market -- expectations fueled by the contract the Patriots handed out last offseason to Amendola -- hasn’t materialized at this point. The Baltimore Ravens reportedly have some interest, according to The Baltimore Sun, but it’s unclear at what level.
Edelman’s situation appears strikingly similar to the position that Welker found himself in last year, as Welker himself had to drum up interest with the Broncos and then ultimately come to grips with a contract that wasn’t as rich as what he had initially hoped for.
In the end, Welker found it easier to accept that type of contract from the Broncos than the team he felt he had given everything he had for six seasons. It stands to reason that Edelman might harbor some type of feelings along those lines as well, given that the Patriots invested big in Amendola last year, and not with him.
So the Patriots have some sensitive ground to navigate as they’d still like to retain Edelman. All told, that’s probably the biggest difference between Welker/2013 and Edelman/2014; there doesn’t seem to be as much urgency from the team to move on to Plan B this year, in part because it’s a buyer’s market for receivers.
Perhaps there will be a breakthrough on Wednesday.
As has often been the case with the Patriots, the activity usually picks up after the initial flurry of moves.
Edelman, who is coming off a career-high 105-catch campaign, enters his sixth NFL season in 2014. The Patriots would like him to return, and Edelman has expressed a desire to as well, but the sides haven't been able to find a middle ground on a contract.
As for the Patriots' possible contingency plan, one free agent to keep an eye on is Emmanuel Sanders. The Patriots signed him to a restricted free-agent offer sheet last year, but the Steelers matched it.
Sanders is an unrestricted free agent who can sign with any team as of 4 p.m. ET.