NEPD Editor: James Christensen
The King is dead. Long live the King.
After six memorable seasons with Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, inlcuding hundreds of catches, a couple of drops, and zero rings, Wes Welker is no longer wearing the red, white and blue.
Moving quickly to replace Tom Brady’s favorite target, the Patriots signed 27 year old former St. Louis Rams receiver Danny Amendola.
The Patriots were able to sign Amendola to a five year contract for $31 million – for an average of $6.2 million per year.
Amendola had a very productive year for the Rams in 2012, catching 63 balls for 666 yards in only 11 games. Amendola missed a few weeks due to a broken clavicle that nearly killed him. Amendola missed the majority of the season in 2011 due to a dislocated elbow.
The similarities between Amendola and Welker are obvious: undersized white Texas Tech slot receivers that return punts and just know how to get open.
Although Amendola is younger and seems to have more vertical speed than Welker, they will fill similar roles on the Patriots offense. Although Welker (7.7) and Amendola (7.8) similar average “depth of target” figures in 2012, look for Josh McDaniels to use Amendola to stretch the middle of the field vertically more than Welker, allowing Aaron Hernandez more space underneath.
This doesn’t mean I expect Amendola to be running “go” routes all day, far from it. Amendola has all the whip, jerk, stop and option routes that Welker had at his disposal, but over the last few seasons, his hands have been much more reliable. In fact, his drop rate was nearly 11% lower than Welker when lined up out of the slot in 2012 according to Pro Football Focus.
If the Patriots are able to add a reliable option at the X or Z receiver positions in the draft or free agency, Tom Brady should be operating at peak performance in no time.
If Julian Edelman isn’t resigned – I think he will be though – you could also see the sure-handed Amendola returning punts and kicks, although the Rams didn’t use him as much in those roles in 2012.
With another former St. Louis Rams receiver coming to the Patriots – Brandon Lloyd and Michael Hoomanawanui the others – you can definitely see Josh McDaniels’ influence on the targets that Brady will have at his disposal. That said, Brandon Lloyd could be on his way out of Foxboro by tomorrow if the Patriots don’t pick up his option.
Look for decisions on Julian Edelman and Brandon Lloyd to come down tomorrow.
The Patriots are always an interesting team to watch during free agency, and this year will be no different. I doubt this is the last day that will have Patriots fans scratching their heads.
We’ll have more analysis from the Welker side of this equation later tonight.