The New England Patriots are unlikely to use the franchise tag on slot receiver Julian Edelman, according to ESPN Boston's Mike Reiss. Edelman went from a lower-end depth player to top target for Tom Brady and the Patriots this season, after losing Wes Welker to free agency and Rob Gronkowski to several injuries. There was also the matter of Aaron Hernandez and his murder charges.
Edelman's numbers went up significantly in 2013, as he exceeded his first four seasons' worth of production in just one year. He collected 105 catches for 1,056 receiving yards (10.1 YPC) and six touchdowns. He also provided the Patriots with a solid punt return option, averaging 10.7 yards per return. On top of all of that, he proved to be a much more reliable option than hyped and well-paid free agent signing Danny Amendola.
The franchise tag this season is projected to be around $11.5 million, according to CBS Sports. Edelman made just $715,000 this season, despite posting the fourth-most receptions in the league. His predecessor, Welker, signed a two-year, $12 million contract with the Broncos this past offseason. That is just over what the franchise tag will likely be this year, notable because the Patriots refused to a pay similar salary to Welker after the 2012 season.
For Edelman, after one year of success with New England, it might make sense to get a long-term payday from another squad. There's no guarantee he'd make perennial playoff appearances and be targeted as much with another team, though. Neither side really seems to have leverage, so Edelman will likely test the market as a one-hit wonder.