By Brad Tuttle
February 4, 2019

Super Bowl MVP awards go to the game’s top performer — and naturally the trophy tends to be dominated by the NFL’s best and highest-paid players. The Super Bowl 2019 MVP went to the Patriots’ Julian Edelman, who may be one of the best postseason wide receivers in history — but he’s not anywhere near the list of highest-paid NFL players.

Julian Edelman, who has now had outstanding performances in three Patriots Super Bowl victories, was not even in the top 50 highest-paid players for his position this season.

Super Bowl 2019 literally set records for lameness: The Patriots 13-3 win over the Rams was the lowest-scoring Super Bowl ever, with records set for categories like fewest touchdowns (one) and the lowest combined scoring through three quarters (six points).

But New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman was particularly brilliant in one of the most boring Super Bowl games. After making a game-high 10 receptions for 141 yards, Edelman was named 2019 Super Bowl MVP.

How much does Julian Edelman make? The Super Bowl MVP’s cash earnings came to a total of $2.4 million this past season, making him only the 68th highest-paid wide receiver and the league’s 561st highest-paid player overall, according to the pro sports contract-tracking website Spotrac.com. Edelman’s 2018 earnings would have been $3 million had he not been suspended the first four games of the 2018 NFL season for testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs.

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady gets plenty of accolades for his amazing six Super Bowl championships — all the more amazing because he was an unheralded sixth round draft pick. But Brady’s teammate Julian Edelman now has three Super Bowl championships of his own, and he was outstanding in all three games. Like Brady, Edelman was overlooked on draft day, which probably isn’t surprising. Edelman is only 5’10”, he didn’t play at a college football powerhouse, and he didn’t even play wide receiver in college. He instead played quarterback for Kent State, and his athleticism and competitiveness were enough for the Patriots to give Edelman a chance, selecting him in the seventh round of the 2009 draft.

The unparalleled success of Tom Brady, now regarded as the GOAT (greatest of all time), has led to him cashing in: He’s routinely one of the NFL’s highest-paid players, earning an estimated $29 million in salary, bonuses, and endorsements this past year, according to Forbes.

It’s quite a different story for 32-year-old Julian Edelman. And considering Edelman’s stellar performances in the biggest games, there’s an argument he’s seriously underpaid.

For the 2019 postseason overall, Julian Edelman finished with a total of 26 receptions for 388 yards in three Patriots victories, according to NFL.com. That averages out to nearly nine catches and 130 yards per game — which are Hall of Fame-worthy statistics.

In his first Super Bowl win in 2015, against the Seattle Seahawks, Julian Edelman also had an great game, racking up 109 yards and nine catches, including what wound up as the championship-winning touchdown. Two years later, in the Patriots vs. Falcons 2017 Super Bowl, Edelman had five catches and 87 yards — nearly identical to the Super Bowl statistics of Falcons’ Julio Jones, who is regarded as the NFL’s best wide receiver over the past decade and is paid handsomely for it.

What’s more, Edelman made one of the most memorable Super Bowl catches of all time in that 2017 title game against the Falcons — the so-called “ankle catch” that turned a near interception into a critical completion on a dramatic game-tying drive for the Patriots.

After his MVP Super Bowl 2019 performance, Julian Edelman has a total of 115 postseason receptions, good for second place in NFL history behind all-time great Jerry Rice (151). Even before Super Bowl 2019, Edelman also snagged the NFL record for most punt returns in the playoffs.

Will Julian Edelman ever earn the kind of money these impressive statistics indicate he seems to be worth? We’ll have to wait and see.

Edelman is under contract with the Patriots through the end of next season. By that time, he’ll be 33, which is considered old for a wide receiver — especially for an aggressive undersized slot receiver like Edelman, who has been hit and injured more than most.

If Julian Edelman does cash in with a big contract, it may not come from the Patriots. The franchise has a long history of letting players go as they get older and demand more money. That goes even with star wide receivers beloved by fans, like Wes Welker, who left the Patriots in 2013 to sign with the Denver Broncos.

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