The New England Patriots quickly found their replacement for wide receiver Wes Welker. Just hours after Welker signed with the Denver Broncos, the Patriots inked wideout Danny Amendola to a 5 year, $31 million deal with $10 million guaranteed.
The pressure is on Amendola to emulate the skills and production of Welker. It will be Amendola’s responsibility to prove that the Patriots management made the correct choice to sign him over the highly productive Welker. Needless to say, a lot of burden will be put on Amendola to produce in this offense.
It will be arduous to replace the production of Wes Welker. Since the time Welker joined the Patriots in 2007, he has led the NFL with 672 receptions. Welker also was super effective this past season, leading the league in receptions, receiving yards and receiving first downs when lined up in the slot.
Letting go of Welker could affect Tom Brady’s game significantly. According to ESPN Stats and Info, Brady has completed 72.7 percent of his passes to Welker over the last four seasons. Brady has targeted Welker a whopping 616 times in this time span.
While Welker was proficient in New England, Amendola may be able to replicate the success at the slot position for the Patriots. Throwing the short pass is a major part of the of the Patriots spread offense that lines two tight ends on the opposite side of one another. Amendola has proven he can provide the underneath presence in the passing game. According to ESPN Stats and Info, Welker had an average target distance of 6.7 yards in the past four years, second lowest in the NFL to… Danny Amendola. Therefore, Amendola is no stranger to going over the middle to catch the short pass and make plays in the open field.
Amendola has considerably better hands than Welker. Welker’s 11 drops were second most in the NFL last year, while Amendola’s drop rate of 2. 1 percent was the second lowest in the league, according to ESPN Stats and Info. Welker’s critical dropped pass in the 2011 Super Bowl against the New York Giants will always be a fatal memory for Patriots fans.
Danny Amendola (age 27) is also five years younger than Wes Welker, who turns 32 on Monday. The Patriots clearly did not value the recent production of Welker as much as the potential of Amendola to produce moving forward.
Fair or not fair, Amendola needs to yield big-time statistics for critics to get off his case. His durability must improve as he played in just 12 of a possible 32 games the past two seasons. Amendola must stay on the field and be a reliable target in the passing game in order for the Patriots to swiftly move past the Wes Welker era in New England.