Since joining the St. Louis Rams in 2009, there hasn't been a more valuable wide receiver to the organization than Danny Amendola. Amendola was brought in by former general manager Billy Devaney during the worst season (2009) in franchise history.
The undrafted free agent out of Texas Tech turned some heads on HBO's Hard Knocks series with the Dallas Cowboys, but was subsequently cut before the season started in 2008. He was later re-signed to the team's practice squad and spent the entire 2008 season there.
From there, Amendola has made a name for himself as a member of the Rams. In 2010, he instantly gelled with the No. 1 overall pick Sam Bradford. He caught 85 passes for 689 yards, scored three touchdowns and led the NFL in all-purpose yards with 2,364.
Not to mention he showed incredible durability by making six starts and appearing in all 16 games. However, during the past two years, his inability to stay healthy has raised major question marks about his long-term viability.
The 2011 season saw Amendola only make one regular-season appearance as he exited Week 1 with a dislocated elbow. The injury immediately ended his season as the team had feared, but No. 16 was a full go at the beginning of 2012.
Yet Amendola's clean bill of health didn't last long. The oft-injured wide receiver suffered two more nagging injuries this past season. The first one occurred during the Rams' Week 5 game against the Arizona Cardinals and the second one came five weeks later against the New York Jets at home.
Head coach Jeff Fisher didn't feel as if the second of the two injuries was as serious, but he found out quickly just how serious it was. The three-year wideout played exactly nine snaps and caught one pass in Week 12 before having to leaving the game with a foot injury. It ended up being the same foot injury he suffered one week prior.
Obviously Amendola would have preferred his contract year not be marred by injuries, but at this point he is hoping he did enough to warrant a long-term deal from St. Louis.
He definitely did enough to deserve a multi-year deal because we have all seen his ability when healthy, yet he hasn't done enough to garner more than $4 million a year.
The Rams are strapped for cap space and can't afford to invest large amounts of money in a player that has 196 career catches and seven touchdowns. His above-average play has been inflated due to the fact that he has been playing amongst inferior talent at the wide receiver position.
Brandon Gibson, Brian Quick, Steve Smith, Austin Pettis and Chris Givens don't exactly scream All-Pro. Sure, Givens put together an impressive rookie campaign, but the NFL won't be inducting him into the Hall of Fame anytime soon.
And that's okay, I'm not saying everyone has to be a Hall of Fame-caliber player to be considered a good player. Plenty of people make a lot of money being a "good" player—all I'm saying is consider the talent around him before proclaiming he would be the hottest receiver on the market if he isn't re-signed.
It's already been made known that St. Louis won't use the franchise tag on Amendola. Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported on that fact yesterday. The tag this year would run the Rams a cool $10.357 million, a number that is probably $6 million more than they want to spend.
Amendola came at a bargain last season. He only cost the organization $1.972 million, according to Spotrac. We all know that he is worth more than that, but only about $2 million dollars more. Based on his injury history and level of play, I wouldn't give him more than the $4 million a year I proposed earlier.
Shoot, even the Rams don't think he is worth $6 million annually. According to Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch): "I do think it will drive up the price on Amendola. And if it rises to $6 million or $7 million a year, I don't think the Rams will be buyers."
This was his answer after he was asked about Amendola's price going up if he indeed hit the open market. Depending on the buyer, I could see him fetching a high-dollar amount, but it would be extremely risky given the underlying circumstances.
As St. Louis Ramblings on Twitter pointed out, the 27-year old receiver isn't worth much more than Davone Bess:
Andrew Verlaan @VerlaanNFL
@TysonNFL @pff_rossmiles I came up with a ceiling as $4m/year a bunch of tweets ago. Also said he's not worth much more than Davone Bess.2013-2-19 17:48:45
Which in turn I feel is a great comparison. All of us got a little carried away when we called him a Wes Welker clone a couple of years ago. Bess' latest deal was for $9.03 million dollars over the course of four years, a fair deal based on his performance leading up to the new contract.
Yet I do believe he will fetch more than Bess because of the weak wide receiver market in free agency.
We do know that Amendola wants to be back and the Rams want him back, but only at the right price. St. Louis knows that tossing piles of money at an injury-prone wide receiver will likely end up blowing up in its face.