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New England Patriots Analysis: Danny Amendola signing, how he fits

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The New England Patriots decided to sign Danny Amendola yesterday (actually, Tuesday per reports) to a five-year deal worth $31 million, and this piece isn’t about whether or not the Patriots should have jumped the gun on Amendola- it’s about how Amendola fits and what he brings to the table. To be honest, I’ve spoken enough on Twitter and wrote about 1,200 words about the whole Welker-Amendola episode earlier; it’s time to analyze some actual football stuff.

Amendola is set to make a little bit more per year than Welker is, but Amendola’s contract is more team-friendly. It is a bit risky given Amendola’s injuries, but he’s also 27 so those five years would be up when Amendola is as old as Wes Welker is today (32). The Patriots always set up their slot receivers to have big numbers, and all Amendola has to do is stay healthy to produce big numbers. Now that’s a sizeable “if”, but it’s one that the Patriots are banking on. If he is healthy, then this would be one cheap, long-term deal for New England.

First, let me get the whole toughness thing out of the way. Amendola is definitely injury-prone (missed 22 games over his first four years), but he is actual a tough player. The injuries he has dealt with are all severe injuries like broken collarbones, which makes me wonder if Amendola truly is “injury-prone” or if we are overreacting about freak, extreme, and unrelated injuries. That isn’t for sure, but what is certain is Amendola’s toughness. He is one tough dude, and he is a gamer who brings it everyday. When he broke his freaking collarbone against the Arizona Cardinals, Amendola looked downright pissed in the locker room. The trainers walked him into the tunnel, and he threw his helmet near the locker room and was yelling. Not because he’s crazy, but because he wanted to be in the game and help his team as bad as anyone.

That event will always stand out to me.

Amendola had a limited role with the St. Louis Rams, and that might be because of his quarterback. Sam Bradford has no deep ball, but he is excellent on short routes with good accuracy and always looked for Amendola on those plays. He targeted Amendola 123 times in 2010 (the first time he played in all 16 games as a second-year player), and he also threw it towards Amendola 101 times this past season in just 11 games.

The thing about Amendola is that he might be the only person who has a shot at replacing what Wes Welker brought for the New England Patriots, even if he isn’t as good as the prototype. I wonder if Amendola has more upside and ability than he showed, because a few analysts are talking about how Amendola can go downfifeld with his speed. While I view him as more a short-area quickness guy like Welker, that could be a possibility. I mean, we never really saw any of that stuff happen while he was with the Rams, and that might be due to Bradford.

But Amendola looks like even more of a dink-and-dunker than Welker when running through the numbers. He averaged 5.9 yards per target (that translates to yards per attempt for quarterbacks) with the Rams, which is a small total. He increased his total yards per reception (8.8 career average) with 10.6 yards per catch last season, but that’s still just moving the chains. He hauls in about 67% of everything thrown at him, which means that he catches less of the passes targeted at him than Welker and gets less yards out of it. Hence, how he averages about 1.5 yards less per target than Welker.

However, we know that Amendola is worse than Welker (or we should) right now, and, more importantly, we know that Tom Brady is a helluva lot better than Sam Bradford. This means that Amendola’s catch rate is likely deflated, and it could also hint that Amendola has more ability to get a higher volume of yards per reception than he showed in St. Louis.

Let’s hope so, and I am optimistic on that front. Amendola is 27, and he hasn’t caught passes from Tom Brady. Once those two develop a rapport, then we can truly see Amendola’s impact to this team. He isn’t going to truly replace Welker, but he is a different kind of receiver. While he brings the key traits that Welker brought to the table and lacks some that will make him the slot receiver of Welker’s caliber, he has the ability to potentially make plays downfield and outside the numbers- versatility that could help the Patriots and mitigate those health and efficiency concerns. Drops aren’t everything, but Amendola has dropped significantly less passes than Welker. While that doesn’t replace the “bottom line” numbers, having Amendola on the team was the best possible outcome for the Pats outside of re-signing Welker.

I am excited to see what Amendola brings to the table, and I hope there is more to Amendola that the Patriots can develop. There are signs pointing to this- that he is more than just a simple dink-and-dunker. I would still like to see the Pats draft a guy like Justin Hunter or DeAndre Hopkins (that is my preference) to add with Amendola to the receiving corps, because it is possible that Amendola is just what he was in St. Louis- a guy who moves the chains. There is definitely nothing wrong with that, because that’s what the Pats need in the next guy to replace Welker in the slot. And, hopefully, we can get a little more out of Amendola in other facets of the game. The most important thing, though, is Amendola’s health, because that’s what this deal hinges on.

I still can’t believe we got this Texas Tech slot wideout instead of the Texas Tech slot receiver who will now be catching passes from- of all people- Peyton Manning with the Denver Broncos. But I love Welker (he was my favorite player on the team, actually) and wish him the best in Denver. However,  I am excited for what Amendola can bring to the table, and it’s time for me to stop complaining about what happened. Instead, let’s look towards the future with hope, because the Patriots have dealt with some tough losses before and coped with them. Even though this loss might be the most significant one yet, there are some bright spots to takeaway and to hang onto. But yes, I am still experiencing some signs of grief and, to be honest, confusion over how quickly things transpired.

What do you guys think about Amendola? How does he fit with the offense and how does he compare against Welker? Give your take in the comments section, and let’s get some good Pats discussion rolling.

You can follow Joe Soriano on Twitter @SorianoJoe.

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