The University of Maine’s All-America wide receiver and kickoff return specialist knew Los Angeles Rams return specialist JoJo Natson had signed with the Cleveland Browns.
He was also aware the Rams could use a big-play wide receiver and had drafted only one, second-round pick Van Jefferson from the University of Florida. Jefferson is coming off a March 5 foot surgery.
Those are among the reasons Edwards chose to sign an undrafted free agent contract with the National Football League’s Rams instead of the Indianapolis Colts, Cincinnati Bengals, Los Angeles Chargers or Atlanta Falcons.
“I saw the opportunity. It was the best fit for me,” said Edwards, who led the Football Championship Subdivision last fall with 28.5 yards per kickoff return and two touchdowns.
He also averaged 22.4 yards per reception and caught a pass of at least 40 yards in nine of his 11 games. The Rams’ leading wide receivers, Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods, combined to catch 184 passes and averaged 12.47 yards per reception.
The Rams have two returning players listed on the depth chart as the kickoff returner and punt returner, respectively. They are second-year pro Greg Dortch, who appeared in two games for Carolina last year, and Nsimba Webster, who averaged 2.6 yards per punt return for the Rams.
Edwards also should benefit from having some friends in the Rams organization. Former UMaine teammate and All-America lineman Jamil Demby is entering his third year with the team, and former Black Bears offensive coordinator Liam Coen is the Rams’ assistant quarterbacks coach after helping with the wide receivers last season.
“I’m very excited,” said Edwards, who has been working out in his native Rochester, New York, while completing his studies online.
Demby said it is awesome to have Edwards join the team and believes Edwards has a legitimate chance to earn a spot on the Rams’ 53-man roster.
“He fits the character and culture here. He is an explosive player. His ability to return kicks is very special and it’s something he can do to contribute right away,” Demby said. “We’ve been pretty deep at the wide receiver position so he’ll have an opportunity to learn from those guys.
“I can’t predict the future, but he will have the opportunity to excel at a high rate and be a special player. We’ll see how it plays out,” added Demby.
Demby said his advice for Edwards is to take the bad with the good.
“At this level, you get critiqued by everybody, coaches and fans. You will also get praise. You have to stay sharp mentally. That’s the biggest thing in this game,” Demby offered.
Demby said Edwards’ work ethic, his football intelligence and his desire to be great in everything he does definitely fits the Rams’ philosophy.
Edwards said he is confident he can play at the NFL level and that he is willing to contribute in any role, including special teams.
He isn’t sure when he will leave for Los Angeles because of restrictions enacted to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
Speedster Edwards ran the 40-yard dash in 4.41 seconds at the recent Rochester Pro Day. The time would have been faster than all but 10 players who participated in the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis in March. That event is held for the most high-profile prospects.
Demby played in his first six NFL games for the Rams last season and made one start. He was drafted in the sixth round by the Rams in 2018 but was waived and wound up on Detroit’s practice squad in his rookie season.
The Rams re-acquired him near the end of the season and put him on their active roster. He never played for the National Football Conference champions, who in 2019 lost to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LIII.
Demby is capable of playing all the interior line positions and is listed as the third-string left guard. He said he was too lean last season and has gotten stronger during his offseason workouts.
“I felt comfortable during the preseason last year but as time went on, my body deteriorated,” the native of Vineland, New Jersey, said. “Putting on some more muscle mass is the formula that works best for me. That’s when I’m at my best.
“I’ve been through a lot of different situations, and I’ve learned from my mistakes. I’m more in-tuned with myself, mentally. I’m more confident,” Demby said.