Julian Edelman announced his retirement on Monday evening, ending a 12-year run with the Patriots that was unlike any other in team history. Edelman was drafted out of Kent State in 2009 as a quarterback who was going to convert to wide receiver. He was part of three Super Bowl Championship teams and became one of the most consistent and clutch performers in team history.
He ranks second all-time in postseason catches and receiving yards behind only Jerry Rice in both categories. In the six seasons that he was a starting receiver for the Patriots (2013-2016, 2018-2020), Edelman totaled 551 catches for 6,108 yards and 32 touchdowns, plus a boatload of postseason heroics.
When he arrived in New England, Edelman was buried deep on the wide receiver depth chart and played the same role occupied by Wes Welker. Because of that, Edelman’s opportunities were limited early in his career. However, Patriots fans got a glimpse of the future during a 2009 Wild Card Playoff game when Welker was out with an injury. The Patriots got blown out by the Ravens, but Edelman caught two touchdown passes and played with a competitive spirit that did not waiver despite the score. Edelman finished his rookie campaign with 43 total catches including his 6 against Baltimore in the playoffs.
With Welker back healthy after 2009 and the Rob Gronkowksi/ Aaron Hernandez tight end duo coming together in 2010, Edelman had a quiet 2010-2012 offensively. He contributed to the Patriots success in other ways, however. Edelman had one punt return touchdown each season from 2010-2012 and played snaps as a defensive back during those years when the Patriots were ravaged by injuries. The converted wide-receiver even forced fumbles on 2011 and 2012 while on defense.
With the departure of Welker after the 2012 season and the arrest of Aaron Hernandez a few months later, Edelman was thrust into a major offensive role for the first time. Thankfully for the Patriots, he was more than ready. On a 2013 Patriots team that reached the AFC Championship Game while depleted, Edelman was the most consistent offensive player. He caught 105 passes for 1056 yards and six touchdowns.
Edelman had been solid in the playoffs prior to 2014, but that was the year that his playoff heroics truly began. New England overcame two 14-point deficits in the Divisional Round against the Ravens. Not only did Edelman catch 8 passes for 74 yards that night, he threw for a touchdown pass on one of the biggest plays of the season.
Edelman caught 9 more passes for 98 yards in a blowout AFC Championship Game win over the Colts to help send the Patriots to Super Bowl XLIX. In the Super Bowl he caught another 9 passes for 109 yards, but his fourth quarter work was the stuff of legends. With the Patriots facing a 3rd and 14 down 24-14 in the fourth, Edelman caught a pass over the middle and took a crushing hit from Kam Chancellor, but held on the ball at midfield for huge conversion.
On the following drive, Edelman caught the game winning touchdown pass and firmly cemented himself in Patriots’ history.
Edelman only played nine games in 2015 due to a broken foot, but still had 62 catches and 7 touchdowns. He returned for the playoffs, caught 17 passes in two games and finished the AFC Championship Game despite re-injuring his foot.
The 2016 season saw Edelman continue his brilliance, catching another 98 balls. The postseason that year further elevated Edelman from Patriots legend to NFL immortality. He totaled 24 catches for 342 yards in three games and scored one touchdown. During the Patriots comeback after being down 28-3 in the Super Bowl, Edelman caught two passes for 38 yards in the fourth quarter and overtime including one of the most iconic catches in league history.
The concentration and hand-eye coordination on that catch is simply incredible.
After missing all of 2017 with a torn ACL, Edelman returned in 2018 and found a way to top his previous postseasons. He caught 74 passes for 850 yards despite playing only 12 games during the regular season, after which the Patriots found themselves in an unfamiliar spot: the underdog.
The Patriots ran the Chargers off the field in the Divisional Round, a game in which Edelman was open all day and hauled in 9 catches for 151 yards. That set up an AFC Championship Game showdown in Kansas City against the Chiefs. The stat line for Edelman in that win of 7 catches for 96 yards is impressive, but the magnitude of those catches was massive. Four of them came in the 4th quarter and overtime for 74 yards including two 3rd and 10 conversion catches on the game winning drive in overtime.
In Super Bowl 53, Edelman was the best player on the field. The Rams defense was suffocating, but Edelman found a way to get open all night. He caught 10 passes for 141 yards and won Super Bowl MVP to go along with his third championship. He became the seventh wide receiver to earn the game’s MVP.
The 2019 season saw the Patriots and their offense take a step back from previous dominance, but Edelman still caught 100 passes, a ridiculous number considering he and James White were the team’s only real passing game threats. A leg injury derailed his 2020 season and it eventually led to his retirement this week.
Edelman leaves the game as one of its ultimate competitors and clutch performers. He was everything a team would hope for in a player and then some. His career is unique in football history and he will go down as one of the most important players in the Patriots Dynasty.