On Monday, one of the most popular and beloved NFL players in recent memory called it a career. New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman announced his retirement, shortly after being released by the only team he’s ever played for in the NFL.
Edelman’s physical prowess didn’t scare anyone, as he’s only 5’10” and a shade under 200 pounds. However, his career was filled with big plays in the biggest games, and will be remembered by Patriots fans and NFL aficionados for years to come.
Does Julian Edelman deserve to be in the Hall Of Fame?
It’s pretty apparent that Edelman’s career was something to treasure, as very few players ever reach the level of team success he enjoyed. Putting his career in perspective though is an interesting exercise. He was never a WR1 in the traditional big play sense. However, he certainly filled that role perfectly for the team he was on.
When all is said and done, will the Pro Football Hall of Fame come calling Edelman in five years or more? Let’s take a look at the reasons why he might, or might not be, a Hall of Famer.
Why Edelman should be in the Hall Of Fame
It’s a simplistic argument to make, but for starters, the greatest quarterback of all time absolutely loved throwing Edelman the football. Tom Brady authored a heartfelt social media post after the wide receiver announced his retirement.
On the biggest stage and in the biggest moments, you always came through. You never lost that chip on your shoulder and you never let anyone define you as a person or player. I’m proud of you Jules. Love you @edelman11 https://t.co/7i5Qb6msor
— Tom Brady (@TomBrady) April 13, 2021
Brady emphasized the importance Edelman had to perennially contending Patriots teams, and it’s an opinion that should carry a lot of weight.
The former Kent State prospect won three Super Bowls in New England, and had 6 career postseason games where he amassed 100 yards receiving. In 19 career postseason games, Edelman had 118 total receptions.
Edelman also has some career achievement statistics working in his favor, over and above his success and production in the postseason. He caught a total of 620 passes in his NFL career. That’s more than Hall of Fame wide receivers Harold Carmichael, Fred Biletnikoff and Lance Alworth.
He also has more career receiving yards than Lynn Swann, also a Hall of Famer at the position.
Why Edelman should not be enshrined in Canton
As much of a face as Edelman was on the dynastic Patriots, he really was never seen as the face of the offense. In his rookie season, Randy Moss and Wes Welker were the main cogs of the passing offense. In his second season, automatic future Hall of Fame tight end Rob Gronkowski was drafted, and made an immediate impact.
— Pro Football Hall of Fame (@ProFootballHOF) April 12, 2021
For basically the rest of his career, Edelman overlapped with Gronk, with the latter seen as more of the engine of the Patriots passing attack. Edelman certainly was a nightmare matchup with his precise footwork, but he’s not going to come to mind first decades from now when recalling the great New England teams. Gronkowski, Moss, and certainly Brady, however, will.
Additionally, it’s not too difficult to poke holes in Edelman’s statistical resume either.
Explosive, elusive, tough, talented.
Simply, 𝐫 𝐞 𝐥 𝐞 𝐧 𝐭 𝐥 𝐞 𝐬 𝐬. pic.twitter.com/QwJUvtoQ4h
— New England Patriots (@Patriots) April 13, 2021
Despite having more receiving yards than a few enshrined pass catchers, the players he’s ahead of played in an era where passing was much less emphasized than it is today. The point can be made that in this day and age, it’s not that hard to eclipse what is seen today as a relatively low bar. Additionally, Edelman has 12 fewer career receiving touchdowns than the fewest total any Hall of Fame receiver has. Drew Pearson notched 48 career scores through the air, while Edelman has just 36.
Julian Edelman Hall of Fame Verdict: Probably not a Hall Of Famer
It seems virtually impossible that Edelman will be voted in when first eligible in five years. There will be too many other automatic entry players who retired this year, and were left over from previous years. Philip Rivers and Drew Brees can already be pencilled in for the class 5 years from now, and so can Larry Fitzgerald if he decided to retire this year.
Edelman also has some statistical shortcomings that are going to be hard to explain away.
However, there may come a time a couple decades from now where an older Brady or Gronkowski pound the table for their former teammate, bringing Edelman’s career back into focus.
It will help Edelman’s cause that he has two of the most influential and recognizable allies in NFL history supporting his case. There might be a little more gray in Edelman’s beard if and when he gets the call for Canton, but it’s not entirely out of the realm of possibility.