Braylon Edwards Saga: Return of the Beard

Cole Patterson breaks down the return of New York Jets wide receiver Braylon Edwards

How did Braylon Edwards end up in a third stint with the New York Jets? What was the logic behind his return? Will his presence help or hurt the team? We explore these questions and more in an in depth look at the Edwards Saga.

Career Path:

College: Edwards began his path to the pros at the University of Michigan where he set numerous records for receptions (97) and receiving yards (1,330). He also set a Big Ten record with 39 career touchdowns. Edwards was a unanimous All-American in his senior season and was elected to the first team All-Big Ten. He ran a 4.38 40 yard dash and hit a 38 in vertical at the NFL Combine.

Cleveland: Edwards was selected third overall by the offensively deficient Cleveland Browns in the 2005 NFL Draft.  Edwards’ first season was interrupted by a hold out, Staph infection, and knee injury. After taking the starting job from Joe Jurevicius in 2006, Edwards exploded on to the scene in 2007 with 1,289 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns (second only to Randy Moss’ record setting 23 touchdowns). Following his breakout season Braylon Edwards had a dismal 2008 with only 3 touchdowns. During this time Edwards became known for off the field verbal and physical altercations, as well as for his butterfingers (a league leading 23 dropped passes in 2008). On October 5, 2009 Edwards allegedly assaulted an acquaintance of fellow Clevelandite LeBron James. Only 21 days later, on October 26th, Edwards was involved in another assault. This first legal issue may have been one of the major factors in the eventual trade to the New York Jets just two days later.

New York Jets: Edwards got the “fresh start” he desired. He stated an express interest in being part of the culture and team Ryan and the Jets were constructing in New York. Edwards had an immediate impact with the Jets by providing a young Mark Sanchez with a reliable, big bodied target that had the body control to adjust to uncatchable passes. In 2010 Edwards led the team with 53 receptions for 904 yards and seven touchdowns. Edwards had many memorable moments with the Jets that truly endeared him to the fan base. Who could forget the fourth quarter game saving bomb on the Texans sideline? Or the set up catch for the win over the Colts? Or, best of all, Edwards dragging Devin McCourty into the end zone in the 2010 playoff game against the Patriots?

Edwards success with Gang Green and dedication to the team made the decision to let him walk in favor of Plexico Burress all the more baffling.

San Francisco: Edwards success in New York earned him an incentive laden contract with the 49rs that rewarded him for production, as the team feared his knee injury would hamper his play. These fears were warranted and Edwards was released in December of 2011 without having made a dent in the Bay.

SeattleEdwards had a very similar experience in Seattle where he was signed in the offseason and released in December of 2012 having never made an impact behind Sydney Rice, Golden Tate, and Ben Obamanu.

New York Jets (Second Stint): We all know the Jets receiving woes of 2012 far to well. As to avoid rehashing the subject, lets just say the return of Mr. Edwards was a welcome one for many Jets fans, and not just the disillusioned ones that thought they would get his 2010 production. Edwards returned to the team on December 11, 2012 just in time to make 10 catches over the last three games of the season.

New York Jets (Third Stint): Edwards was again left to walk after the 2012 season. He returned to the team again after a physical on July 24th. The rest is TBD.

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Braylon Today: Though off the field issues and drops plagued his early career, Edwards seems to be a changed man. The receiver has become a dedicated football player with a team first mentality (especially if that team is the New York Jets). He even seems to have tamed his wild side, cured his case of the dropsies, and spends much of his time with charitable endeavors.

A Logical Signing: The New York Jets are desperately thin at wide receiver. Holmes, the only veteran receiving threat, looks to begin the year on the PUP. Jeremy Kerley looks to start in his place having shown his value in 2012 especially considering the terrible quarterback play and lack of complementary recievers. The underwhelming sophomore receiver, Stephen Hill, is next in line for catches but already shows signs of lacking concentration and durability. Behind these three are Seattle cast off Ben Obamanu, one dimensional Clyde Gates, and a host of UDFA’s and walk ons highlighted by Zach Rogers, Jordan White, and Ryan Spadola.

After last year’s offensive debacle, its clear that this depth chart would not be an acceptable starting position for the season (replace Obamanu with Schillens and it looks eerily similar). The plain truth is that Holmes, Kerley, and Hill will play and they will get their touches. Hill has a lot to prove and Kerley and Holmes are the only dependable commodities. After that, it is a wasteland. Many hope that the young guns will get their chance to shine, and they will, if they earn it.

The Jets tried out free agents Austin Collie and Laurent Robinson. Both are talented options. Yet, for whatever reason (be it medical or skill based) the Jets were unimpressed. According to Rich Cimini, the Jets had their eye on Edwards for months and were just doing their due diligence by waiting and observing what they had.

Adding Edwards is insurance. He is a proven commodity that has a good, team first attitude and solid hands. He will not take snaps away from the three starters and if the young guns or Obamanu prove they deserve more reps than Edwards, they will get them. After all, Rex and Mornhinweg are fully on board with Idzik’s competition mantra. Edwards is in nobody’s way, is asking for very little money, adds stability to volatile position, and brings a good presence to the locker room.

The ConsEdwards is not the player he used to be. His on field speed is no where near his spry 4.38 40 time in 2005. His agility has decreased precipitously. The possibility for Edwards to play over the younger, untested prospects exists and could keep a hidden gem hidden. Edwards’ past may catch up to him and be a distraction for a newly focused Jets locker room. His roster spot may be better suited for a younger player that can play special teams.

The Pros: Edwards, despite early trends, has very dependable hands. He can adjust his body to poorly thrown balls (an inevitability with a rookie or Sanchez under center). Edwards is a willing blocker (important for a budding run game) and shows a toughness that the Jets recieving core currently lacks. Edwards loves New York and loves being a Jets which can bring an air of positivity to an occasionally unstable locker room. Edwards can teach the young receivers how to be a pro and provide a reliable body for whoever is throwing the ball in 2013.

Reasonable ExpectationsThe Jets needed a veteran wide receiver to supplement their group, end of story. Many called for Edwards. Others called for a trade. Still others advocated letting the young guns have nobody limiting their playing time. Edwards was the choice and he will return to Cortland a Jet.

With Holmes looking at the PUP, expect to see Kerley and Hill get most of the reps. After them, the competition is wide open. I believe that those best suited for NFL production will show themselves in camp and earn their roster spot over their competitors.

The truth is, there is a reason the UDFAs went undrafted and the chances of them making the roster over a player like Obamanu or Edwards is minimal. However, there is also a reason neither receiver had a home until late in the off season.

From scouting reports on the young receivers, game tape on Obamanu, and first hand knowledge of Edwards’ ability, I believe the outcome may be as follows: Kerley, Hill, Edwards, Obamanu, Rogers (UDFA), and White will make up the depth chart going into camp, barring a miracle recovery by Holmes or another receiver singing. Once Holmes returns, everyone may be pushed down a peg and one of the veteran receivers may be cut.

And…he’s got or (had) a KILLER beard