The 34-year-old is reportedly battling a chronic condition that hasn't improved much since he underwent surgery in October 2020. New England terminated his contract with a failed physical designation, making him eligible to collect up to $2 million via injury protection benefit, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.
Edelman broke into the league as a seventh-round pick in 2009, earning his first roster spot as a wide receiver and kick returner despite playing quarterback at Kent State.
The slot artist finishes his career as the fourth-leading receiver in Patriots history with 6,822 career yards after providing numerous signature moments for the franchise - particularly in the playoffs, where his 1,442 receiving yards rank second in NFL history behind Jerry Rice.
"By any measure of what constitutes an elite NFL career – wins, championships, production – Julian has it all," Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said in a statement. "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 captured his first title at Super Bowl XLIX, reeling in nine receptions, including the go-ahead touchdown in New England's 28-24 victory over the Seattle Seahawks.
Two years later, Edelman made a miraculous catch against the Atlanta Falcons late in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl LI. The longtime Patriot's heroics helped New England drive the field, tie the game, and force overtime, where the Patriots prevailed after trailing by as many as 25 points in the third quarter.
Edelman earned MVP honors in Super Bowl LIII two years after that, catching 10 passes from Tom Brady for 141 yards in New England's 13-3 victory over the Los Angeles Rams. The California native became the first wide receiver named Super Bowl MVP since Santonio Holmes a decade earlier.
The veteran wideout was limited to six appearances in 2020. The Pats revamped their receiving core in free agency, signing wide receivers Nelson Agholor from the Las Vegas Raiders and Kendrick Bourne from the San Francisco 49ers, as well as tight ends Jonnu Smith from the Tennessee Titans and Hunter Henry from the Los Angeles Chargers.