Curran: Patriots signed younger Welker in Amendola

Curran: Patriots signed younger Welker in Amendola
March 13, 2013, 11:45 pm
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The Patriots signed Danny Amendola to a five-year, $31 million deal on Wednesday evening.

Their final offer to Wes Welker was two years and $10 million, plus incentives, according to Albert Breer at the NFL Network.

The deal Welker agreed to in Denver was for two years and $12 million.

See a trend? A top-of-the-line slot receiver is going to fetch about $6 million a season. That's what the market was.

And a 27-year-old like Amendola is going to be signed to longer terms than a soon-to-be-32-year-old like Welker. That's what football reality is.

Those are the simple facts of this.

Beyond those, there's a whole lot of emotion. For instance, didn't the Patriots owe it to Welker to offer him more given his work for the team since 2007? He only caught 672 regular season passes, returned 114 regular season punts and took every organ-rattling hit opponents put on him and bounced back up. He only came back from a blown ACL in nine months in 2009 and seemed to put the team first every step of the way for six seasons. If any guy deserved pay for both past and future performance, wouldn't it be Welker?

Given the $6 million per year offer he signed with Denver, the Patriots would counter with the fact they paid him nearly $10 million on the franchise tag last year. That, they might say, was above-market.

When I spoke to Welker's agent David Dunn last year, he suggested that a four-year $32 million deal with about $20 million guaranteed would have gotten it done.

In the end, the Patriots were offering Welker -- including last year's deal -- three years for $20 million. The money Dunn believed Welker should be paid and Welker was convinced he should be paid was not realistic and the Broncos offer Welker agreed to seems to be proof of that.

That Welker chose Denver's offer over the Patriots isn't a simple matter of dollars and cents either. As pithy as the offer was, Denver's was barely better. This decision also seems to smack of emotion. One team -- the Patriots -- took Welker for granted. The other -- Denver -- wanted him,.

The fact Amendola was in Boston and finalized his deal so quickly after Welker shows that Welker read the writing on the wall very well. He read it right at the start of last season when the Patriots were emphasizing Julian Edelman and Aaron Hernandez. And he no doubt sniffed it in the air when he heard of the Patriots dalliances with Amendola last year when he was a restricted free agent.

Whose feelings are hurt, how Welker's former teammates feel, it's all moot now that there's a viable replacement for Welker in town. Is Amendola a viable replacement?

Yes.

In the first four games of 2012, he had 31 catches for 351 yards and two touchdowns. Welkerian production for the Rams, a team that is not in the same zip code as the Patriots offensively.

The "but" to those stats -- and to Amendola -- is that an injury occurred. In the Rams fifth game, Amendola broke his clavicle and missed the Rams next three games. That injury, coupled with the dislocated elbow and torn triceps that cost Amendola 15 games in 2011.

Is Amendola "injury prone" or was he merely unlucky?

Rams general manager Les Snead talked about that at the NFL Combine when asked about Amendola.

"Just like intangibles come into play, just like physical skill comes into play, just like production comes into play, your ability to be on the field comes into play," Snead said. "That's a fact of life. I think everybody knows it and I'd be remiss to not tell you that. So yes, you have to weigh that because you are going to produce more for the team if you are out there."

"Durability is definitely something you weigh but not No. 1," he added. "In general, I think history can usually predict the future if there is certain patterns. Having one ACL and then coming back and nearly breaking Eric Dickerson's record is one thing I think you have to think about. History is a predictor but it's not a definite predictor."

Whether it's a pattern or not, we'll find out.

But Amendola is clearly Welker's football doppelganger, right down to the fact he went to Texas Tech and entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent.

Amendola was such an obvious replacement for Welker, morons like me were noting the possibilities before free agency last year.

Amendola comes to New England with a ton of pressure on him. He is, like Brandon Lloyd, Daniel Fells and Michael Hoomanawanui, a Rams import who Josh McDaniels got familiar with as the Rams OC in 2011. McDaniels kinda needs this to work. The Patriots fanbase expects it to work, And Tom Brady, who just lost his closest teammate, will demand that it work.

When you take all the emotion out of an extremely emotional game, though, it boils down to this. The Patriots found a younger guy to do the job.