---- — FOXBORO — Where would your New England Patriots be without Julien Edelman, who had to fight and claw his way ... to a $1 million contract?
I know one particular location: Last bleepin' place in the AFC East.
Yes, last place in the worst division in the National Football League. But instead, your Patriots, which have overcome two subpar weeks against AFC East rivals, Buffalo and the New York Jets (Pats won, 13-10, last night) and, in fact, may have already clinched the division.
But for some, unknown reason, Edelman, a free agent slot receiver was not picked up by anybody this past off-season and he had to settle for deal which will net him just over $1 million if he stays healthy.
Are you telling me 31 other teams, including the Jets, couldn't pay this guy two or three times what he's making here to make plays for them (remember, he returns punts and last year spent a few dozen plays playing defense).
Last night was a classic performance, arguably leading the Patriots, almost single-handedly, to a painful win (and painful to watch, too).
Here's a quick stat report of his game. Edelman:
Caught 13 passes, a personal record (besting his old one of 10).
Converted six of the Patriots' nine first downs (not a misprint! ... nine!), including a 20-yard catch on third-and-15.
Ran for a first down, too, going four yards on the Patriots' first drive, which ended in a touchdown.
He also returned punts for 17, 17, 13 and 15 yards.
When is the statue of Edelman going to be built? OK, I'm kidding, but when everybody starts getting healthy in the next few weeks, come late December the hero of this season might be Edelman, who had seven catches for 79 yards last week, including two for touchdowns.
"He's a Welker-clonish," said Jets coach Rex Ryan, after the game. "He's not as good as Welker, but he's close ... and does a lot of the same things. He's obviously been well-tutored."
The irony is that it could be argued that Edelman's role, which is currently as a wide out, is bigger than Welker's ever was here as right now he is Brady's only dependable guy.
All you need to know is this: Of Brady's 39 pass attempts, 18 of them were thrown to the 5-foot-10, 190-pound Edelman.
"I don't look at it that way," said Edelman after the game, with about 20 media member surrounding his locker stall. "My role is to make plays and try to win. That's why I play. I like to win."
When informed of breaking his personal mark with 13 receptions (78 yards) last night, he might as well have been Patriots coach Bill Belichick.
"That doesn't mean anything," he said in a monotone. "We won the game."
As for the comparisons to Welker by Ryan, Edelman wasn't touching that with a 10-foot pole. It's obvious that when somebody in the media mentions Welker, silence is the best policy.
"We've moved on," said Edelman.
When pushed, he relented a little.
"I obviously watched him for four years," said Edelman. "Sure, I learned from him. I've learned from a lot of people."
As Patriots defensive back Kyle Arrington was leaving, he was asked about his counterpart on offense, Julien Edelman. He put his bag down and answered the question.
"He is one of the toughest, hard-nosed teammates I've ever played with," said Arrington. "He's also one of the hardest workers. He always looking at film. He's always lifting (weights) and working on his footwork ... I'm not surprised one bit about his success. The man is a football player and he works harder than anybody."
I hate to say anybody is a steal for a million bucks, but you know what, in this billion dollar industry, the Patriots have a bargain emulating an MVP right now.
You can email Bill Burt at firstname.lastname@example.org.