Report: Julian Edelman’s chronic knee issues put future with Patriots in doubt

Edelman's knee problems could force him to sit for part of 2021, sources tell the Boston Herald's Karen Guregian.

New England Patriots Julian Edelman
Julian Edelman warms up before a game against the Denver Broncos in October 2020. –Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

With one year left on his contract, Julian Edelman wants to give it another run with a revamped Patriots offense in 2021 after spending most of last year on injured reserve.

But his balky knee might not let him do it, which could make his future in Foxborough murky.

The Boston Herald’s Karen Guregian reported Thursday that the three-time champion and Super Bowl LIII MVP will likely not be able to play the entire 2021 season, according to what a source told her about the extent of Edelman’s lingering knee troubles.

The receiver has battled knee pain and soreness dating back to the 2019 season and went on IR after New England’s Week 6 game against the Denver Broncos in 2020 for an undisclosed knee injury, having surgery shortly after. But, as the source told Guregian, “while surgery can provide temporary relief, nothing can solve the underlying problem.”

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That leaves the Patriots with a question: is keeping Edelman, even if out of respect for all he has accomplished with the team, worth it?

New England stands to save roughly $3.5 million in cap space if they trade or release Edelman, and the team may be able to replace his production, if not his veteran leadership, with the signings of tight ends Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith and wide receivers Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne — as well as any receivers they may draft later this month. The team also still has Jakobi Meyers, the leading receiver from last year, under contract for another year before he becomes a restricted free agent in 2022.

Edelman might also choose to retire if he does not believe his knee can hold up or if the Patriots opt not to keep him, though he said in January he’s “not there yet.” His age and injury issues would likely make his trade market nonexistent, and Guregian speculates even teams like Tom Brady’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers might not have much need for the aging receiver either.

The Patriots’ past dealings with long-time franchise favorites, Brady included, suggests the team won’t be overly sentimental if Edelman isn’t capable of performing. That said, even a markedly less-productive version of Edelman could still be of use in a limited role, both because he established an early-season rapport with Cam Newton in 2020 before being sidelined and because of the experience and knowledge he would bring to a relatively youthful receiver room.

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It’s just not clear if those factors will be enough to ensure Edelman plays another down with the Patriots.

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