By Andrew Barbuzzi
Patriots fans were disappointed to say the least when seemingly out of nowhere, Wes Welker decided to sign a two-year, $12 million contract with the Denver Broncos. The Patriots reportedly offered Welker a two-year deal worth $10 million, which included other incentives such as 100 receptions and 1,000 yards, which are feats that Welker is sure to surpass every year.
There was speculation that Welker chose the Broncos over the Patriots because he wasn’t aware of how good an offer the Patriots made him, partially because of his agent. Both Welker and the Patriots wanted to make a deal happen, only it was a case of two sides standing strong. It didn’t take long for the Patriots to move on as they signed free agent WR Danny Amendola to a five-year, $31 million contract.
This came as a bit of a surprise, not because of Amendola’s skill, but because of the numbers. Welker was offered $5 million per year, while Amendola was offered $6.2 million. It seems bizarre to offer Amendola more money, considering how set the Patriots were on keeping the spending low this offseason.
The deal-breaker was, you guessed it, age! At age 31 Welker doesn’t have many years left, while Amendola, age 27, is on the upside of his career. Welker and Amendola have actually been compared before; they both played college ball at Texas Tech, although Welker had graduated before Amendola was a freshman. They both epitomized the slot receiver position for quick undersized receivers.
Amendola, who formerly played for the St. Louis Rams, has actually proven more effective than Welker at this point in their careers. Amendola has been on pace to reach 100 receptions and 1,000 yards as well as becoming St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford’s favorite target. The only thing that’s held him back is his ability to stay healthy.
In 2011 Amendola played only one game as a dislocated elbow required surgery and kept him on the sidelines. The following season, he started off hot until a shoulder injury cooled him off.
Amendola then came back, only to break his collar bone the next game. He originally believed the injury was not serious enough to end the season when, in fact, it was much more severe. The injury not only threatened his season, but was life-threatening in general.
Instead of merely breaking out, the collar bone caved in, nearly piercing Amendola’s heart and trachea. Of course Amendola would ultimately fully recover, but his injury-prone past leaves Patriots fans with questions and concerns and for good reason.
Welker, on the other hand, has been a workhorse in his last six seasons with the Patriots and has only missed three games with injuries including a torn ACL in week 17 versus the Houston Texans. He’s caught at least 111 receptions and 1,100 yards in all but one season during his tenure with New England.
He’s been Tom Brady’s most consistent option throughout the years and considering he’s played with the likes of Randy Moss, Rob Gronkowski, and Aaron Hernandez, that’s saying a lot.
There is no doubt that the production will have to come from someone else next season, as even a healthy Gronkowski and Hernandez combination will struggle to make up for those drops in numbers.
Amendola has all the tangibles in terms of size and speed to replace Welker and even the slot receiver background to match. He also has a longer reach to go with a better deep threat. He also has the intangibles like great work ethic which makes for a good match with Bill Belichick.
Something about the last six seasons tells me some of Welker’s success had to do with Tom Brady. If Amendola can stay healthy I see no reason why he cannot put up numbers identical to him.