On Christmas Eve 2011, Braylon Edwards and his 49ers teammates went into Seattle and held off the Seahawks, improving their record to 12-3, and enhancing their odds at getting a first round playoff bye.
Three days after the game, in which he had one catch for nine yards in the second quarter, Edwards was cut by the 49ers.
It was a meek end to an equally meek run for one of the NFL’s resident bad boys. Having only 15 catches for 181 yards and no touchdowns in the nine games he managed to play,
Edwards was deemed expendable on the verge of the 49ers’ first playoff run in nearly a decade.
Curiously, the day he was cut, fellow receivers Ted Ginn Jr. and Kyle Williams were battling injuries. That left Michael Crabtree as the only healthy receiver of note.
That San Francisco nearly made it to the Super Bowl without him, their run ended by special teams miscues and not his absence, should speak to the diminished value that Edwards has today.
Edwards, for those that have forgotten, was the No. 3 overall pick by Cleveland in the 2005 NFL Draft.
It took until the tail-end of July, when the only other good/decent receivers available included Plaxico Burress and Mike Sims-Walker, for Edwards to find employment. He signed a one-year deal to compete for a job, rather than being gifted with a major role outright, with Seattle.
The competition doesn’t look particularly tough, however. Seattle wideouts as a whole scored only 13 touchdowns last season. They cut comeback story Mike Williams a month ago, and Pete Carroll seems prone to starting rookie surprise Doug Baldwin and the injury-rattled Sidney Rice in 2012.
Beyond that, Edwards will compete with Golden Tate, Ricardo Lockette, Benjamin Obomanu, one-time washout Antonio Bryant, and a handful of others, for backup spots.
Even just two years ago, one would have to say that Edwards would be a sure starter, maybe even the ace over Baldwin. He’d worked hard in New York to shed his “stone hands” label that came with a plethora of dropped passes, and the result was a quality 2010 with 904 yards and seven touchdowns as Mark Sanchez’s best receiver.
But injuries, hiccups in his play, and ill-advised run-ins with the law have done more than just crack the façade of a man once lauded for his blazing speed in a bulky body. His reputation has proceeded him after multiple arrests for DUI and assault, especially in a legal-happy league like the NFL has become.
Edwards was mostly invisible in 2011, amassing no more than four catches, or 47 yards, in any game he played. The fact that San Francisco jettisoned him before their playoff run does speak volumes, though to be fair, Edwards was battling injury off and on last season. But regardless, Edwards played in two AFC Title games, which included an 80 yard touchdown reception against the Colts less than three years ago.
But now he’s competing, not guaranteed anything but an opportunity. At the age of 29, it took nearly five months after free agency’s opening for him to find a taker, long after most teams have determined their starters and, in most cases, figured out their primary backup(s). Those promising years in New York, which brought him closer to justifying the No. 3 selection of 2005, are yesterday’s news.
But all is not lost. Pete Carroll has taken troubled projects and spun them around before.
Marshawn Lynch was looking like a one or two hit wonder in Buffalo, with many legal problems of his own, before being traded to Seattle in 2010, where he became a playoff hero, and had his best season last year.
Mike Williams’ substance abuse problems led him away from the game for two seasons before Carroll, his college coach, brought him to the Seahawks, where he had an inspirational 2010 season.
Is it possible that Seattle is just the place Braylon Edwards needs to be?
"We're going to just let him show us where he is," Carroll said, not ready to gauge just how the soon-to-be eight-year pro fits in, if at all.
Time will tell if Edwards has made his last stop in the NFL, be it with an impending finish, or the perhaps prolonged string of success that a man with his skills once held promise for.