As Bill Belichick continues to take heat for his 28th-ranked offence’s lack of playmaking talent, his 2013 decision to replace Wes Welker with Danny Amendola looms large.
Amendola had zero catches in the Patriots’ 41-14 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 4. Tom Brady has only thrown it Amendola’s way nine times all year, and he has a total of three catches for 16 yards.
Welker was a key piece of the 2012-13 Patriots offence that finished 1st in the league in efficiency. After that season the team low-balled him in free agency, offering him a reported two-year, $US10-million deal.
Welker was about to turn 32 and Belichick, like he has done with ageing players plenty of times in the past, chose to replace him with a younger option.
That option was Amendola.
The Patriots signed the 27-year-old Amendola on a relatively lucrative five-year, $US31-million contract. While he was often injured in St. Louis, he put up good numbers and his playing style was so similar to Welker’s that he was thought to be the perfect replacement.
Eighteen months later, the Welker replacement plan has been a disaster.
After Welker signed with Denver on a two-year, $US12-million deal, he has outplayed Amendola by a significant margin. Here are their regular season stats since the beginning of last year:
- Welker (14 games): 79 catches, 838 yards, 10 TDs
- Amendola (16 games): 57 catches, 649 yards, 2 TDs
Amendola’s numbers this year are even worse. Julian Edelman has taken his job at primary slot receiver. He’s only playing 48% of his team’s snaps. He hasn’t had a catch since Week 1.
He’s ostensibly the team’s No. 1 receiver — or at least that’s what the Patriots thought they were getting when they signed him — but he has the statistical profile of the third or fourth wide receiver.
The Patriots didn’t want to re-sign Welker because they wanted to avoid having an older player on an onerous contract. Ironically, it’s Amendola’s contract that is now looking like the problem.
There were whispers last winter that the Patriots would cut him. That never materialised, but you have to think it’s an option going forward. Amendola’s salary goes from $3 million to $US4 million in 2015, and he gets a $US1 million raise in each of the two years after that. Even if the Patriots cut him after this year, he will still count $US3.6 million against their salary cap because of the $US6 million signing bonus he got in 2013.
Belichick has had success offloading productive players as they hit their 30s. That is very much not the case this time.
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