Three-time Super Bowl champion WR Julian Edelman retires after Patriots release

Julian Edelman's storied career in New England and pro football is complete.

Edelman officially announced his retirement from the NFL on Monday, a little over an hour after the Patriots terminated his contract due to a failed physical.

"By any measure of what constitutes an elite NFL career -- wins, championships, production -- Julian has it all," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said in a statement from the team. "Few players can match Julian's achievements, period, but considering his professional trajectory and longevity, the group is even more select. It is historic. This is a tribute to his legendary competitiveness, mental and physical toughness and will to excel.

"Day in and day out, Julian was always the same: all out. Then, in the biggest games and moments, with championships at stake, he reached even greater heights and delivered some of his best, most thrilling performances. For all Julian did for our team, what I may appreciate the most is he was the quintessential throwback player. He could, and did, do everything -- catch, run, throw, block, return, cover and tackle -- all with an edge and attitude that would not allow him to fail under any circumstance. Julian Edelman is the ultimate competitor and it was a privilege to coach him."

Edelman leaves after compiling an incredibly impressive career at a position he hadn't played until he reached the NFL, yet proved invaluable in the clutch. Once a star dual-threat quarterback at Kent State, Edelman converted to receiver, arriving in New England via a seventh-round pick in the 2009 draft. The diminutive Edelman became a favorite target of Tom Brady, catching 37 passes for 359 yards and a touchdown in his first season before blossoming into the ideal slot receiver in New England's offense in 2013. In that season, Edelman posted his first 1,000-yard campaign, catching 105 passes for 1,056 yards and six touchdowns.

Three seasons later, Edelman made the greatest highlight grab of his career, snagging a deflected pass from the centimeters of space above the turf at Houston's NRG Stadium to help the Patriots remain alive in a furious comeback attempt that ultimately lifted them to an overtime win over the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI. Edelman also earned MVP honors in Super Bowl LIII after catching 12 passes for 141 yards versus the Rams, his third and final Super Bowl triumph.

In between, Edelman grew into Brady's trusty target underneath, catching 599 passes for 6,507 yards and 36 touchdowns from 2009-2019 while helping the organization capture three Super Bowl titles. Edelman also second all-time to only Jerry Rice in postseason receptions (118) and yards (1,442).

Whenever Brady needed to find a reliable pass-catcher for a third-down conversion or a red-zone reception, Edelman was there to follow through time and time again. His 620 career receptions rank second in team history behind Wes Welker (672).

"Julian Edelman is one of the great success stories in our franchise's history," Patriots owner Robert Kraft said in a statement. "There aren't many players who earn an NFL roster spot at a position they have never played before. Julian not only did that as a seventh-round draft selection, but he is retiring with the second-most career receptions in franchise history and as a three-time Super Bowl Champion, including his last as Super Bowl MVP.

"No one was more committed to his craft and honing his skills than Jules. His explosiveness off the line, quickness in his cuts and elusiveness after the catch made him one of the hardest players to defend throughout his career. His clutch catches in our biggest games and overall toughness made him a fan favorite. Over the past 12 years, I have enjoyed watching him grow as a player, as a person and as a father. In 2019, I had the privilege of traveling to Israel with Julian, which might be the only place where he is more popular than here in New England."

With his pals Brady and Rob Gronkowski gone for Tampa, the 34-year-old appeared in just six games in 2020, catching 21 passes for 315 yards in a New England offense that struggled mightily without proper pass-catching talent for new arrival Cam Newton. It was the knee injury suffered in 2020 that forced Edelman to call it a career, with the receiver telling fans in his announcement video that after years of saying he'd go until the wheels came off, "they've finally fallen off."

"It was a hard decision, but it was the right decision for me and my family," Edelman said in his video announcement posted to Twitter. "And I'm honored and so proud to be retiring a Patriot."

Edelman succeeded as the latest of a handful of mid-major products who found their niche in the NFL and ran with it to stardom. He leaves as a beloved core piece of the second half of New England's two-decade dynasty, and one who will forever be remembered for his timely contributions and personification of grit and desire on a football field.

"It's been the best 12 years of my life," Edelman said. "It's a hell of a run and I can't forget you, Patriot nation. You guys have welcomed me and my family to a region we did not know. But now, I'm one of you. I'm going to leave you guys with two words: Foxboro forever."

A fan favorite in New England, his contributions won't be forgotten any time soon -- and he'll undoubtedly be missed.

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