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Julian Edelman's new contract extension is Patriots' latest smart move

New England used its 2017 cap space to keep Tom Brady’s safety blanket in the fold.

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NFL: Super Bowl LI-New England Patriots vs Atlanta Falcons Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The Patriots have agreed to a contract extension with wide receiver Julian Edelman, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN. It’s a two-year deal, ensuring the veteran standout will continue his career with New England through 2019. Edelman was slated to become a free agent after the 2017 season.

The former Kent State quarterback is coming off the best season of his career. At age 30, he hauled in 98 receptions for a career-high 1,106 yards, providing Tom Brady with a reliable presence who could work near the sideline and in the slot.

He won his second Super Bowl ring as part of the greatest comeback in NFL history -- and his juggling, circus catch may be one of the most indelible images from that legendary game.

He’ll lead a dangerous receiving corps in 2017 slated to include Rob Gronkowski, Brandin Cooks, Chris Hogan, Malcolm Mitchell, Dwayne Allen, Danny Amendola, and Andrew Hawkins.

Extending Edelman in June is a savvy move for a Patriots team flush with cap space. New England was approximately $20 million under the cap this offseason, and inking their most reliable receiver to a new deal allows the franchise to fit a good portion of the money it owes him under this season’s total. While the Patriots are making a gamble the 31-year-old athlete can continue to produce at a high level, it looks like a safe bet; Edelman is coming off the most productive season of his career and will be part of the deepest receiving corps the team has ever fielded.

The move is a familiar one for New England. The Patriots have long used current cap space to write out contract extensions for the star players they want to keep before paying an open market premium. This offseason, they retained Super Bowl hero James White for three extra seasons worth a reasonable $12 to $15 million deal, depending on incentives. They also prevented starting center David Andrews from becoming a restricted free agent next winter by inking him to a similar deal. They also used the strategy to keep veteran pass rusher Rob Ninkovich in the fold early in the 2016 season.

Edelman is the latest in a long line of Patriot veterans to stamp their place with the franchise by signing contract extensions. Now he’ll have to prove he can continue to produce at a high level as he ages toward his mid-30s.