New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman is facing a four-game suspension for violation of the NFL’s performance-enhancing drug policy, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported on June 7. Schefter added that Edelman is arguing he has taken “hundreds of tests” without a positive result. His appeal is happening Monday in New York.
A day after his suspension was reported, Edelman confirmed he would be taking it up with the league with this statement:
From Julian Edelman’s Instagram story. pic.twitter.com/VDCuqHf8r6— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) June 8, 2018
According to Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer, Edelman’s positive result was for “a substance that wasn’t immediately recognizable,” and it is still being tested. But for now, the receiver is set to miss the first four games of the year.
In addition to the claim about the unidentifiable substance, his appeal will also hinge on the mishandling of the paperwork and delivery of his testing sample, according to ESPN. He’s hired attorney Alex Sprio to aide his appeal effort.
Edelman, 32, missed all of the 2017 season after tearing his ACL in a preseason game. In the four years prior, he posted 3,826 receiving yards and 20 touchdowns.
The news isn’t a disaster for the Patriots’ receiving corps. Wide receiver was made a priority for the Patriots in the offseason with the team adding Cordarrelle Patterson, Jordan Matthews, and Braxton Berrios. Even Kenny Britt — an addition late in the 2017 season — has been making a positive impression so far.
He’s been really impressive, from what I’ve heard and seen reported. Would be interesting to see if he can carry it forward. https://t.co/Ovv1ur2vfR— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) June 5, 2018
The loss of Edelman — a player who didn’t play at all during the team’s Super Bowl run a year ago — isn’t devastating. There are six other wideouts currently on the roster with starting experience, and that’s not counting special teams All-Pro Matthew Slater or 2018 sixth-round pick Berrios.
While there may not be a single player who can replace Edelman as Brady’s favorite target, there are plenty of candidates to fill the void. Additionally, losing the veteran wideout for four games will also help alleviate the roster crunch that was sure to happen before Week 1.
By sliding Edelman to the suspended list, New England will get an extra month to figure out the odd man out in their lineup. That extra time could be instrumental in determining whether Phillip Dorsett can live up to his first-round billing, Matthews can restore his value after a brutal 2017, or Malcolm Mitchell can return to 100 percent after missing the entirety of last season.
The Patriots really don’t need any more drama. It’s tough to tell how much of the rumored drama behind the scenes in New England is real, and how much will disappear once the team starts winning football games again.
But here are some things that raise eyebrows:
- The Patriots lost the Super Bowl and Malcolm Butler watched from the sideline. Reports have indicated the decision to bench Butler frustrated many Patriots players.
- Longtime defensive coordinator Matt Patricia left to become head coach of the Lions.
- Four key offensive players (Danny Amendola, Nate Solder, Dion Lewis, and Cameron Fleming) left in free agency, and another (Brandin Cooks) was traded. On defense, the Patriots lost Butler and Johnson Bademosi.
- Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski missed the beginning of OTAs and chose to get “their usual treatments” at a TB12 clinic instead.
Brady and his personal guru Alex Guerrero created the TB12 system, and were the source of some Patriots drama in 2017. Belichick stripped Guerrero of team privileges fueling rumors of tension between Brady and Belichick.
After news of Edelman’s suspension was first reported, Guerrero released a statement that seemingly accused other coaches and medical professionals of cutting corners in their time working with Edelman:
New England reloaded with plenty of new talent, Brady has since showed up at OTAs, and all the major parties have shrugged off reports of tension. But there are challenges ahead for the Patriots after a painful Super Bowl loss and losing a star to a four-game suspension doesn’t help.
What does this mean for Edelman? The Patriots aren’t a sentimental organization and will cut ties in a second with a player if a replacement is found.
Edelman was already facing the challenge of returning from an ACL tear to play in the slot — a position that requires quickness and agility. Now, he’ll have to fend off Berrios — a young sixth-round pick who is a decade younger and hungry for a roster spot — and new acquisition Matthews, who has been at his most productive from the slot.
With Edelman due to count $3,696,077 against the salary cap in 2018 and $4,666,668 in 2019, the Patriots could save millions if Berrios can show he’s worth investing in instead. If Edelman is sidelined for four games, the rookie may get that chance.