A seventh-round draft pick in 2009, the 34-year-old finishes his decorated 12-year career -- all with the Patriots -- ranked second in receptions (620) and fourth in receiving yards (6,822) in franchise history, while adding 36 receiving touchdowns.
Edelman was instrumental in helping the Patriots win three Super Bowls and was named Super Bowl LIII MVP after logging 10 receptions and 141 yards against the Los Angeles Rams. Perhaps the most memorable highlight of his career was the fingertip snag that helped keep the Patriots' historic comeback alive in Super Bowl LI, a game they eventually won in overtime against the Atlanta Falcons. He ranks second in NFL history in postseason receptions (118) and receiving yards (1,442), behind only Hall of Fame receiver Jerry Rice (151 and 2,245).
After considering Edelman's lofty accomplishments, we asked our analysts to weigh in on the following question:
Is Julian Edelman a Hall of Famer?
Steve Smith Sr.: Hell yeah! When I think of Edelman, I think of a hard-nosed, tougher-than-snot wide receiver who played far above his draft standing throughout his career. When the Patriots needed to move the chains and Tom Brady needed a target, No. 11 always answered the call. Most important, he always showed up in the postseason. I'm not so sure the Patriots win Super Bowl LI or LIII without him; that's how much of a playmaker he was in those games. The sizable impact he had on the Patriots' dynasty over the last decade-plus should earn him a spot in football immortality.
James Jones: Julian Edelman had a very good career, but there's no way he belongs in the Hall of Fame. If I look down the line at some of the best wide receivers to play in Green Bay, guys like Sterling Sharpe, Jordy Nelson, Donald Driver or Greg Jennings (who, like Edelman, all played with a HOF quarterback), their career stats far exceed Edelman's, and they aren't even sniffing enshrinement. (OK, there's a chance Driver will, eventually.) Looking at my own career, which I'm very proud of, I had nearly 200 fewer catches but 15 more touchdowns than Edelman, and I know I'll never reside in Canton. If he gets into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, it will be so disrespectful to so many players who've had great careers. Seriously, they will have to start letting everyone in.
Nate Burleson: There's an argument to be made against him, but I'll make one for him. Edelman benefitted from playing on a perennial contender, but he also made himself known as one of the most clutch postseason players in NFL history. The ridiculous catch he made in Super Bowl LI was one of the best I've ever seen. Ever! Without his effort on that play, the Patriots might not have completed the epic comeback. Plus, he's second to the G.O.A.T. when it comes to his postseason stats. Edelman's dominance when it mattered most should get him a gold jacket.
Maurice Jones-Drew: He shouldn't be a Hall of Famer. His stats aren't there, and he was never one of the league's top receivers during his career. Sure, he has three rings, but the Hall of Fame is about individual accomplishment.
DeAngelo Hall: I think Jules will be a Hall of Famer. When you think of those New England teams and the grittiness and toughness they played with, they don't have nearly the same fight without him. And speaking of fight, how many times did this 5-foot-10, former Kent State quarterback rise to the occasion? I'll help you out. Every. Single. Time. He was a major player in the Patriots' postseason success, which will be a major factor in his HOF case. I lined up across from Edelman during my career and he gave me just as many problems as Hall of Fame receivers Terrell Owens and Randy Moss. That's saying something.
David Carr: I love Julian Edelman and what he's done as a player, but to be considered a Hall of Fame player, you have to be (at the very minimum) the absolute best at your position for at least one year. Edelman was great, but I never would have said he was the best receiver in the league during his time.
Nick Shook: Edelman is one of a handful of tales in which players who didn't register a blip on most teams' radars ended up latching on with a club that gave them just enough space to carve out their niche. Perhaps no one maximized such an opportunity more than Edelman, at least not in terms of hardware. And very few, if any, became as synonymous with terms like grit, desire and sacrifice like Edelman, a diminutive do-everything guy who grew into a very good slot receiver who also wasn't the least bit afraid to throw himself into the fire to help the Patriots win.
All of this is true. All of this will land him in the Patriots' Hall of Fame. It might even get his No. 11 jersey retired. But it shouldn't lead him to Canton.
I say this as someone who attended and graduated from Kent State University, where Edelman is a legend among the likes of Nick Saban, Jack Lambert, James Harrison and Josh Cribbs. Edelman was the embodiment of the ethos of mid-major college football: If you work hard enough, are willing to sacrifice almost anything, and are even happier to adjust your own role as needed, you just might make it in the NFL -- for a few years, if you're lucky. Edelman sprinted through that brick wall headfirst, carving out a 12-year career that included three Super Bowl titles and a Super Bowl MVP. But he also didn't make a Pro Bowl or an All-Pro team. His stats pale in comparison to other worthy candidates who still haven't reached Canton. And while rings matter (often more than they should), we're judging for gold jackets on individual merit.