Out with the old, in with the new.
It's been a theme throughout the AFC East and the NFL as a whole in free agency. The Patriots embodied it in a five-hour span on Wednesday, when they watched Wes Welker walk to the Broncos and signed a similar slot receiver, Danny Amendola, to a strikingly similar deal just hours later.
Ian Rapoport @RapSheet
The Patriots agreed to a 5-year deal with Danny Amendola, source says. 5 years, $31M. $10 guaranteed. Avg: $6.13/13/2013, 11:24:00 PM
What exactly does Amendola bring to the table?
I asked B/R NFC West lead writer Tyson Langland for his thoughts on Amendola, and his belief is that the Pats have found a Welker replacement in the ex-Ram.
As much as everyone in St. Louis says Danny Amendola won't be missed, he will be. Amendola brings great route running and short area quickness to the table, much like Wes Welker did in New England. More specifically, he was the king of running drags, pivots and option routes to perfection. Sam Bradford and him always seemed in-sync, so look for him and Brady to develop that same kind of relationship going forward.
Not only does Amendola offer much the same skill set as Welker, but he's comparable from a statistical standpoint, as well. How could that be, though, with Amendola's 196 career receptions falling short of Welker's 240 from 2011-2012?
According to ProFootballFocus.com's slot performance metrics, Amendola's catch rate was just 2.4 percent lower in the slot than Welker's, but his drop rate in the slot was just 1.9 percent compared to Welker's whopping 12.9 percent rate. Amendola also caught as many touchdowns in the slot as Welker did, both finishing with three apiece, but Welker got his on 50 more targets.
The Patriots probably feel they can get similar production out of Amendola, without worrying about his age becoming a factor.
Will the transition from Welker to Amendola be seamless? Probably not. Heck, it may not even happen. Tom Brady doesn't exactly have a sterling track record of developing chemistry with receivers. Just ask Chad Ochocinco (15 receptions with the Patriots), Joey Galloway (seven receptions), Chad Jackson (13 receptions) and Taylor Price (three receptions).
All were considered talented receivers who couldn't get on the same page with Brady.
None of those receivers were considered as much of an injury risk as Amendola presently is, after missing 20 games over the past two seasons with multiple injuries. He dislocated his elbow in Week 1 of the 2011 season and missed the rest of the season while on injured reserve. In what was the scariest injury of the 2012 season, Amendola broke his clavicle and it nearly punctured his heart.
Even if the chemistry is not immediate, even if he's not healthy for 16 games, the Patriots will probably still be okay. B/R lead writer Michael Schottey said it best of Belichick's track record at receiver:
For better or for worse, right or wrong, Bill Belichick believes in his heart of hearts that Welkers grow on trees. He found the former undrafted castaway on the scrapheap and he will go right back to it. Knowing what we know about Belichick and his crafty ways, it's likely he has whole binders full of Welkers to fall back on.
... Deion Branch tried to leave the Patriots for greener pastures. It didn't work. Next came Randy Moss who had his career revitalized in New England and thought that had something to do with him. For those keeping score at home, the Patriots are 2-for-2 in letting their receivers walk.
In finding a player with such a similar skill set to replace Welker, they are hoping to make it 3-for-3.
That being said, how similar are the two receivers in the first place? Greg Bedard of The Boston Globe shared some interesting thoughts on Amendola, and how the Patriots might feel about him.
Greg A. Bedard @GregABedard
I think they see him as a different player. Offense evolving “@BOwens31: Do Pats consider Amendola an upgrade over Welker?”3/14/2013, 12:04:38 AM
The Patriots could still look to add an "X" (outside) receiver to take some of the attention off the middle of the field, where tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez make their hay.
The offense could get a new look with a dynamic outside receiver to open things up.
For now, though, the hole that opened up with the departure of Welker has now been filled with the signing of Amendola.
Erik Frenz is the AFC East lead blogger for Bleacher Report. Be sure to follow Erik on Twitter and "like" the AFC East blog on Facebook to keep up with all the updates. Unless otherwise specified, all quotes are obtained firsthand or via team press releases.
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