The New England Patriots declining to use the franchise tag on Wes Welker means the nimble and hard-nosed wide receiver may have played his last game as a Patriot. Welker is likely seeking a multi-year contract in the $13 million dollar range, and it is doubtful the Patriots would give the 31-year old receiver a lengthy extension. Alas, it may be time to start looking at potential replacements for Welker if he does leave via free agency.
Danny Amendola could fill the void at the slot wide receiver position. Amendola and Welker are very comparable players by their style of play, as both excelled in the special teams before they became big-time targets in the slot wide receiver position.
Amendola possesses many of the same skills on the field as Welker such as quickness, toughness, and the ability to take a hit after catching a pass. He also has great hands, proving to be a great option in the slot. In his first two seasons in the league, Amendola was able to stay healthy and play 30 of 32 possible games, but still his inability to stay on the field the last two seasons is a concern.
While Amendola may have been injury prone the past two years, it is hard to ignore the effectiveness of this gifted receiver when he is able to suit up. Amendola had a noteworthy year in 2010, hauling in 85 receptions on 123 targets, producing commendable statistics on a horrific Rams offense. The Rams offense was even more anemic this past season, yet he still had 666 yards receiving, despite missing five games of the season. The Rams have made it clear they will not franchise Amendola, and its widely believed that the impending free agent will leave St. Louis.
It is nearly impossible to replace the production of Welker. Since joining the Patriots in 2007, Welker has 672 receptions, 7,459 yards and 37 touchdown receptions. But, with Welker potentially set to plea for excess money in free agency, the Patriots may have to let the receiver go. Given that he is five years younger (27-years old) than Welker and his reception-target ratio is 67 percent in the past four seasons, (just slight less behind Welker’s 71 percent rate) Amendola may be the better option moving forward.
If Amendola were to join the Patriots, all of his statistics will drastically improve because he will finally be removed from a dreadful offense in St. Louis to play for one of the most potent offenses in the league in New England.
Tom Brady may not miss a beat in the passing game if the Patriots decide to sign the nifty Amendola. The Patriots may not miss Welker that much after all if they are able to land Amendola in free agency.