Gronk down, Welker next?

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Gronk down, Welker next?

Pop quiz hotshot: Who's more essential to the Patriots offense Rob Gronkowski or Wes Welker?

Whose present and long-term standing with the team is most integral in a) keeping Tom Brady happy b) striking fear in the heart of opponents and c) maybe, just maybe, bringing that elusive fourth Lombardi Trophy to the Patriots Hall of Fame?

Who's more likely to get drunk at a high school house party and declare himself a Golden God before cannon-balling into a crowded swimming pool?

Actually, that last one's not so easy, but the answer is Gronk. The answer to every question is Gronk. As amazing as Welker's been over his five seasons with the Pats, there are few players in the entire league more dominant than Yo Soy Roberto Gronkowski, and before today, his future status as a Patriot was the biggest question looming over the New England cap. What's going to happen when his deal expires? Will they pony up all that cash? Is there anyway they'll let Gronk slip away?

The answer is no. We can say that for sure now, thanks to the news that Gronk and the Pats have agreed to a six-year extension that will keep the half-manhalf-fiesta in Foxboro through 2019. I don't know about you, but I can't wait to see how many touchdowns he and 42-year-old Tom Brady combine for that season. I'm think at least 25. At least.

But scaling it back to the present for a second, it's important to note that with the Patriots No. 1 financial question mark now being replaced by an exclamation point, the team has been granted a decent dose of salary cap clarity.

And now that they can visualize their long term future with Gronk, they'll have an easier time finding solutions to some of their short term problems.

And there's no pressing short term issue than Wes Welker.

Will he be the next extension to fall out of Foxboro? I wouldn't be surprised.

Although, Mr. Kraft might also want to consider signing his new lady friend to whatever kind of deal she wants.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Amendola forced Brady to break a ping pong paddle in first week with Patriots

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Amendola forced Brady to break a ping pong paddle in first week with Patriots

Tom Brady has never been one to hide his emotions when he's on the field, and it sounds like he's not much different at the ping pong table.

When asked about Brady during an interview on ESPN's NFL Insiders show, Patriots receiver Danny Amendola recalled one story from his first few days at Gillette Stadium back in 2013.

"He's the best teammate," Amendola said. "He's so competitive . . . I remember one story, it was my first week in the building and he wanted to play some ping pong. I didn't know how to go about it. I knew I was better than him, [but] I didn't want to beat him too bad because I wanted him to throw me the ball.

"I knew I was better. Needless to say, his competitive nature unleashed a broken paddle by the end of it. It's the reason we love him, and the reason why he's the best quarterback."

That first encounter at the ping pong table didn't seem to hinder Amendola's relationship with Brady in the least. In their first game together, Amendola fought a groin injury and still ended up with 10 catches for 104 yards in a win over the Bills. Since then, when healthy -- and particularly since New England's most recent run to a Super Bowl title -- Amendola has established himself as one of Brady's most trusted targets.

Amendola and the rest of the Patriots are facing a start to the regular season without their No. 1 quarterback as Brady awaits a decision from the Second Circuit on whether or not it will rehear his case against the NFL. Should backup Jimmy Garoppolo take the reins in Brady's place, however, Amendola said he'll be confident. 

"He's a great player," Amendola explained. "He's been in the system a couple of years now and he's learned a lot. He's picked up everything that Tom has taught him and then also what coach [Bill] Belichick has to offer him. So we're all excited to see where he goes and see what the future holds for him."

Amendola says he feels 'really good' following offseason surgeries

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Amendola says he feels 'really good' following offseason surgeries

Danny Amendola did not participate in OTA or minicamp practices that were open to reporters, but that doesn't mean he's ailing. 

"I feel really good," Amendola said while paying ESPN's NFL Insiders show a visit. "I had a couple minor procedures done after the season. Everybody knows how long the season can be. I wanted to go into next season feeling as fresh and ready as I can."

Amendola joined a relatively long list of Patriots regulars -- including LeGarrette Blount, Julian Edelman, Nate Solder, Sebastian Vollmer, Logan Ryan and Duron Harmon -- who were not spotted during spring workouts. There exists, however, some optimism that he'll be ready to participate in training camp.

Though Amendola has battled nagging injuries in three seasons with the Patriots, he's often played through them rather than miss time. The 30-year-old wideout has played in all but six regular-season games since 2013.

Amendola is coming off of his best year in a Patriots uniform, finishing 2015 with 65 catches for 648 yards and three scores. He now helps make up a receiving corps that will include Edelman, newly-acquired wideouts Chris Hogan and Nate Washington, Aaron Dobson, DeAndre Carter, Chris Harper and rookies Malcolm Mitchell and Devin Lucien.