In the span of a few short hours, the New England Patriots lost Wes Welker to their perpetual rival, Peyton Manning, and the Denver Broncos, only to fill the void with one of the few players in the entire NFL capable of playing the same role effectively by signing Danny Amendola to a five–year deal.
Not only did the Patriots land a dynamic weapon to keep their offense churning, but they structured the length of Amendola’s contract to directly coincide with Brady’s so that both are free agents after 2017.
What’s more, Amendola could potentially not only match Welker’s production, he could actually provide better value.
Yes. Better than Welker.
The two share an astounding amount of similarities. Both attended Texas Tech, both went undrafted, both play in the slot and both rely on precision and quickness rather than blazing speed to get open.
Amendola, however, stands two inches taller than Welker (5’11” vs. 5’9”) and presents Brady with a bigger target.
Perhaps more importantly, Amendola performed an admirable Welker impersonation on the field despite lining up opposite Brandon Gibson, Chris Givens and the like. He wasn’t just the Rams’ best weapon in the passing game; he was more or less their only one.
Over the past three seasons, Amendola has averaged roughly 5.5 receptions per game and 50 yards per contests, despite opposing defenses keying in on him and starting in barely half of the games he played in. Over a full season those numbers would equate to 88 receptions for 800 yards.
That was with Sam Bradford as his quarterback.
Which team got more bang for their buck?
In New England Amendola will be expected to start every week as Brady’s go-to-guy in the slot. What’s more, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez will command considerable attention from any defense, freeing him to work against single coverage and flourish in an up-tempo, high-octane offense led by one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game.
Amendola carries some health risk as he’s missed 20 games over the past two years, but if he can stay healthy he should pick up right where Welker left off.
Considering he will enter next season five years younger than Welker and is just now entering his prime, Amendola should provide the Patriots with a much better return on their investment than Welker would have. Both players will earn roughly $6 million annually. But five years from now, Amendola will be in the exact same position Welker was a few hours ago; a highly productive 32–year–old slot receiver looking for a payday, whereas Welker himself will likely be retired.
So you tell me, would you rather have five years of a player with oodles of untapped potential just entering his prime, or two years from a player whose very best years are likely behind him, who never experienced success outside of New England’s system or without Brady and will inevitably begin declining as he advances further into his 30’s?
The Patriots gave us their answer, and while only time will tell if they are right, the odds are certainly in their favor.