Julian Edelman to IR analysis

Analysis on the Patriots placing receiver/punt returner Julian Edelman on season-ending injured reserve Tuesday with a broken right foot:

1. Edelman was emerging as a bigger threat at receiver. In his fourth season, Edelman had made considerable strides at receiver, to the point that he was starting to line up in some two-receiver sets over Brandon Lloyd. While missing three games with a hand injury, he played 32.6 percent of the offensive snaps this season and was a threat as a pass-catcher and a rusher at times, becoming one of the team’s more explosive players with the football in his grasp. The receiving corps was already thin, and this also highlights the calculated risk the Patriots took in waiving receiver Greg Salas on Nov. 22 (he was claimed by the Eagles) to address needs elsewhere on the roster (offensive line). That decision looks regrettable now, softened in part by the ability to re-sign a player with knowledge of the system (veteran Donte’ Stallworth).

2. Punt return job likely to Welker. In addition to his growing role as a receiver, Edelman was the team’s primary punt returner. He was excellent at the job, and this likely means receiver Wes Welker assumes those duties full time. Rookie running back Brandon Bolden could be an option, but that’s asking a lot of a first-year player, especially as the weather gets colder and the stakes get higher.

3. Edelman’s future with the Patriots; Welker connection. Edelman is in the final year of his contract and is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent. Thus, the injury comes at a tough time for Edelman and likely will impact the type of contract he could receive on the open market. It might be a situation where his best option is a one-year deal in which he can return to health, ideally put up big numbers, then hit the open market after the 2013 season. With fellow receiver Welker also scheduled for unrestricted free agency this offseason, the situations are naturally connected because their style of play is somewhat similar.