In 2007, the New England Patriots hustled the Miami Dolphins out of Wes Welker. Welker, then 26, was given a second-round tender by the Miami Dolphins as a restricted free agent. For a young player on the rise on a poor team, the Patriots could pry him loose with a contract offer that included a "poison pill" and only have to fork over a second-round draft pick. In the end, the Patriots took pity on Miami and worked a trade instead, sending Miami their second-rounder and a seventh-rounder as well in exchange for Welker who they signed to a five-year deal. In the Patriots' system - and thanks to his own talents - Welker has been perhaps the most productive slot receiver in NFL history. My friend Mike Reiss wrote about the machinations behind the Welker signing for The Boston Globe back in 2007. Now, five years later, there's a player that's as close to Welker in style as any in the NFL. And he's been given the second-round tender as an RFA. Danny Amendola of the St. Louis Rams, who missed almost all of 2011 after dislocating his elbow in the season opener, is a player that had 85 catches for St. Louis in 2010. He's 5-10, 186 pounds. He plays the slot. He returns punts. He's 26 years old. He was undrafted out of Texas Tech. He was cut by two teams - the Eagles and Cowboys. The Turf Show Times, a Rams fan site, detailed the similarities last year. Could the Patriots pull the same move with Amendola that they did with Welker and set themselves up with Welker's successor? It makes sense. Except for the money. With Welker carrying a 9.5 million franchise tag and the Patriots likely looking at a wideout like Brandon Lloyd in free agency as well, that's a lot of money being flung at a position that New England's been miserly about spending toward. A new deal for Amendola to pry him out of St. Louis would only add to the wideout tab in 2012. Meanwhile, acquiring Amendola would certainly crimp any contract extension talks with Welker that the team could have between now and July 15. It could cause Welker to back at signing the tender at all and staying away from the team into training camp. But it would free the Patriots up from having to give a long-term deal to a slot man who turns 31 in May and it would bring Welker's eventual replacement in the fold. With free agency opening Tuesday at 4 p.m., we'll soon find out if the Patriots see the logic in making the same move with Amendola that they did with Welker. Let's hear from you in the comment section whether you think it's a move New England should explore.
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