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Analysis: No easy way to replace Edelman

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Julian Edelman announced his retirement on Monday afternoon via an emotional video posted to social media, wrapping up a 12-year career with the New England Patriots that saw him win three Super Bowl championships and a Super Bowl Most Valuable Player award. The Patriots reportedly terminated Edelman's contract with an injury designation on Monday as well, in a precursor tied to Edelman's retirement that will make him eligible for an injury protection benefit.

Along with the second-most receptions in team history, Edelman finishes fourth in total yards, but it was really in the playoffs, and especially in the Super Bowls, where Edelman will best be remembered. Thrust into the spotlight as a rookie after Wes Welker was lost in the regular-season finale in 2009, Edelman chipped in six catches for 44 yards and two touchdowns in a losing effort to the Ravens.

In 2014, he'd throw a touchdown and pick up 17 catches in playoff wins over the Ravens and Colts, then turn in a clutch performance in Super Bowl 49, with two third-down catches and the championship-winning touchdown in the fourth quarter.

He'd follow that up with one of the greatest catches in Super Bowl history against the Falcons and then culminate his career with 10 catches for 141 yards against the Rams, earning him the game's Most Valuable Player award and a third championship ring.

In 19 career playoff games, Edelman had 118 catches for 1,442 yards and five touchdowns.

The loss of Edelman is a significant one to the Patriots, both on and off the field. Third-year receivers Jakobi Meyers, N'Keal Harry and Gunner Olszewski will all be counted on to step up and help replace Edelman's production.

"When I got here it was definitely Jules for sure," said Meyers this past season when asked about who he followed when he arrived in New England. "That's the best player on your team and you want to be a good player in the NFL, why not follow the standard that was set by the main guy? It's pretty easy for me to see what him and Slater do pretty much every day and just try to incorporate it into my own NFL lifestyle."

Presenting our favorite photos of Julian Edelman during his 12-year NFL career with the New England Patriots.

The team is fortunate to have already made significant upgrades to the receiver group in free agency and both Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne offer good versatility to offset some of the loss. Pair them with two veteran additions at tight end and the offense will likely be relying less on three-receiver sets, as well.

With the draft just two weeks ago, the Patriots should be even more heavily considering some of the top targets slated to go in the first two days. There are some dynamic and explosive options in rounds two and three that could further help ease the offense through a post-Edelman transition.

But replacing Edelman's tone-setting presence and big game experience will be impossible. He finishes off a career for the ages with his legacy in New England sports history firmly cemented.

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