Julian Edelman was placed on injured reserve after playing just six games last season. The Patriots will need to decide if the 34-year-old receiver is worth bring back this year. Winslow Townson/AP Images for Panini

Julian Edelman is going to try and gut out another season with a chronically troubled knee.

As a competitor, and one of the toughest players you’ll ever find, that shouldn’t come as a surprise. Edelman doesn’t want to retire without a fight, and another run at a championship.

The question in the coming months is what the Patriots will ultimately choose to do with him after adding two potential starters in free agency and perhaps another soon via the draft.

According to a source familiar with Edelman’s situation, it’s doubtful he will be able to play the entire 2021 season. The knee has already hampered him for the better part of two years.

While surgery can provide temporary relief, nothing can solve the underlying problem, the source said. That doesn’t mean Edelman won’t try to suit up, but if you’re the Patriots, how do you keep a soon to be 35-year-old receiver with a bad knee that will eventually sideline him again?

Do they gamble on the gutsy Edelman defying odds, and being able to make a valuable contribution the whole year?

Last season, Edelman was shelved on injured reserve after playing just six games. He underwent a surgical procedure in October to alleviate knee pain and swelling. But he never returned to action, despite practicing briefly in December before being shut down for good.

He could play a few games in 2021, but given the nature of the problem, be gone the next. It’s possible the Pats could try to trade him, but it’s hard imagining many teams wanting damaged goods.

As for Edelman working his way into a reunion with Tom Brady in Tampa Bay – the wideout pranked that possibility on April Fool’s day – chances of that are pretty slim, too. Who would Edelman displace on the Bucs’ stacked receiving corps? Do Bruce Arians and Todd Bowles sit a younger, healthier Scotty Miller in the slot, for Edelman? Or 2020 rookie Tyler Johnson, whom Brady found for a critical catch in the playoffs? Not to mention stalwart starters Mike Evans and Chris Godwin.

On the flip side, while the Patriots aren’t as loaded as the Bucs at wideout, they would need to think long and hard about handing a roster spot to a player who can’t be counted on to be available.

Of course, Edelman has already overcome and achieved so much for the Patriots over his dozen years in New England. He’s been a warrior throughout. Sentiment, however, won’t likely factor into the front office’s decision.

Both Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne, signed as free agents, are locks to be in the lineup. Add in Jakobi Meyers, and there’s three spots already taken up on the roster.

N’Keal Harry may, or may not be traded. Then there’s also Gunner Olszewski, who is the team’s top punt returner and could be an ascending slot option.

In a well-stocked receiver class, the Patriots would be well-served to add more, especially in the slot given Edelman’s age and injury woes.

So do the Patriots keep the former Super Bowl MVP one more season, sacrificing a roster spot so he can mentor younger players and play until the knee gives out? That might have some appeal to Josh McDaniels.

With an improved cast around him, it certainly would make Edelman’s life a little easier. In that scenario, he might not see double teams at every turn and be able to contribute and be somewhat effective on a gimpy knee. He did just that at the tail end of 2019, gutting out several games that year, and having one of his best seasons. He caught 100 passes for 1,117 yards and six touchdowns.

But the knee problem persisted, rendering him a shell of himself in late December and January. And that’s once again the likelihood in 2021.

So should the Patriots simply let him go, and move on without their tone-setter at receiver? It’s not an easy call. Edelman still has one year left on a deal that would pay him a base salary of $2.8 million, along with a cap hit of $6.1 million, according to Over The Cap. If Edelman is traded or released, the Patriots would be on the hook for roughly $2.6 million of that, freeing up about $3.5 million in cap space.

That will also weigh into the team’s decision going forward, as Edelman tries to once again navigate through the injury.

DUSTIN WOODARD, it appears, has had a change of heart. Last year, the Patriots drafted Woodard in the seventh round, pick No. 230 overall. The center from Memphis was expected to add some versatility to the Patriots’ offensive line. Woodard, however, retired in August before the regular season started. It was reported that he had lost his desire to play football.

A year away from the game evidently changed that. According to ESPN, Woodard has been reinstated to the NFL and has been added back to the Patriots’ roster.

Woodard, who is 6-2 and 285 pounds, had a great career at Memphis, starting 52 straight games. He also played three different positions – left guard (2016 and 2017), right guard (2018) and center (2019) – and holds the Memphis school record for the most games played by an offensive lineman with 54.

Woodard joins a deep and versatile offensive line group. At center, the Patriots re-signed David Andrews, signed Ted Karras and also have Marcus Martin. With Woodard on the roster, the Patriots’ preseason roster, which is limited to 90 players, is up to 80.


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