While Patriots fans are understandably upset Welker joined rival Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. As per the “patriot way,” Belichick has rarely given money to veteran players whom he believes to be past their prime.
Willie McGinest flourished for three of Belichick's Super-Bowl winning teams. He was a key linebacker for the Patriots defense over that stretch but was let go in 2006.
The team ultimately preferred cap space as opposed to re-signing one of their fan-favorite defenders. McGinest went on to spend another three seasons with the Browns, but his prime had long passed.
Mike Vrabel is another example of a linebacker who completely embodied Belichick’s coaching philosophy. Vrabel did it all—snagged interceptions, rushed opposing quarterbacks and even caught touchdown passes as a tight end. One day a fan favorite, the next day a Kansas City Chief.
But Belichick was proven right again as Vrabel’s best years were clearly behind him. The sudden move was clearly a tough pill to swallow, especially for a team that had come to depend on him as a leader and playmaker.
In one of the more shocking moves, Belichick once again proved that no player was untouchable, no matter the timing. Right before the start of the 2009 season, New England parted ways with arguably one of their best players, Richard Seymour.
Seymour was sent to the Oakland Raiders for a first-round pick in the 2011 draft. He was in the final year of his contract, and the Patriots were all but assured they couldn’t afford him after the season anyway.
Other than Tom Brady, Adam Vinatieri was perhaps the most iconic Patriot from the early 2000s. His game-winning field goal over the Rams in Superbowl XXXVI will go down as perhaps the greatest upset ever. But as far as Belichick was concerned, he was just a kicker. When Vinatieri wanted a raise, they simply let him walk.
Fact of the matter is—when you play for Bill Belichick, everyone’s a replaceable piece of the puzzle, unless your name is Tom Brady. In New England, Wes Welker is just another big name that adds to the long list of those who Belichick let walk for greener pastures.
Make no mistake, Welker’s production in a Patriot uniform was nothing short of remarkable. Six years, 7,459 yards (five 1,000-yard seasons), 37 touchdowns, a team-record 672 receptions, plus an NFL record of five seasons with 100+ receptions.
While other Patriot greats saw their careers go into free fall after leaving Foxborough, it’s tough to envision Welker doing the same with Peyton Manning under center.
With Tom Brady having already put the career of one Texas Tech alumnus on the map, there’s no reason to suggest he can’t do so with another.
Enter Danny Amendola: a taller, faster, stronger, and more explosive Wes Welker doppelganger.
The Patriots needed to find a receiver capable of doing Welker’s dirty work over the middle, and Amendola is a more than worthy replacement. While he may not be as accomplished as Welker, Amendola is a polished route runner with speed and agility in the slot to give opponents headaches.
Though sporting a Patriots jersey for the first time in his career, Amendola is no stranger to their offense. The 27-year-old has already worked with offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, who served under the same role with the Rams two seasons ago.
Welker came to New England largely unheralded and left as an icon. With a more athletic version of Welker in the slot, who’s to say that, barring health concerns, Amendola can’t enjoy the same type of success No. 83 did.
If you compare what Welker did before becoming a Pat to what Danny Amendola did in a Rams uniform, it’s obvious that Amendola accomplished much more.
On an awful team with below average quarterback play, Amendola has absolutely blew away the numbers that Welker posted through his years pre-New England.
In 32 games before joining the Patriots, Welker had 96 receptions and 1,121 yards.
In 42 games, Amendola had 100 more receptions and went for 1,726 yards.
The jump in Welker's production after coming to New England is an obvious byproduct of Tom Brady and the Patriots offense. Brady’s efficiency, quick rhythm and accuracy helped Welker thrive as a slot receiver. Brady routinely delivered pinpoint passes to spots where only Welker could catch the ball, though Welker does deserve credit for creating separation thanks to his quickness and assortment of moves.
Wes Welker ranked 2nd in the NFL With 118 receptions in 2012 . But despite his staggering catch totals, he disappeared in big games, and his 15 drops marked tops in the NFL.
At 27 years old and 4 years younger than Welker, Amendola will reap all the benefits of playing with Tom Brady for the foreseeable future. Perhaps Amendola needs just a slight push to reach the 1,000-yard or 100-reception plateau, and playing in New England’s explosive offense could only help him there.
While it might be difficult to envision Amendola replicating Welker's production, he may not have to. New England has shifted their offensive attack to one that is heavily reliant on Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski. All Amendola has to do to be effective is simply give Tom Brady another weapon.
In the past Tom Brady has made several mediocre receivers such as David Givens, Deion Branch and Donte Stallworth look like Pro Bowl-caliber players.
It wasn’t until they left New England that people began to realize how much their success was dependent on Brady.
Belichick has a history of discovering diamonds in the rough and turning them into standouts. One can look no further than Wes Welker and Danny Woodhead as the most recent examples.
After all, if the three-time Coach of the Year didn't have confidence in Danny Amendola, he wouldn’t have signed him to a lucrative five-year deal that includes $10 million in guaranteed money.
Nonetheless, New England’s front office saw something in Welker six years ago that the rest of the NFL missed.
History is on the Patriots' side this time around, and just maybe they've seen something similar in Danny Amendola.