Not long after it was announced that Wes Welker had agreed to join the Denver Broncos as a 2013 free agent, the New England Patriots have replaced him with Danny Amendola. The Patriots and Amendola agreed on a five year contract that will pay the diminutive receiver $31 million and a guaranteed $10 million.
Amendola is significantly younger than Welker, he will be 27 at the end of the upcoming season, but has only been in the league for four seasons. After being an undrafted free agent, he signed with the St. Louis Rams where he almost instantly established himself as a possession receiver. He only had 326 yards and a touchdown as a rookie, but caught 43 passes in 14 games. His second season saw him play in all 16 games and finish the year with an incredibly 85 receptions for just 689 yards and three touchdowns.
Welker and Amendola were often lumped into the same class by onlookers, but the biggest difference between the two has proven to be the veteran's durability. Amendola only played in one game during the 2011 season, before an injured tricep landed him on IR. He missed five games last season because of shoulder and foot injuries. He still finished the season with 63 receptions in just 11 games. Like Welker, Amendola has soft hands and the bravery to make tough receptions over the middle. However, unlike Welker, Amendola has greater diversity and the ability to consistently beat defensive backs when lined up on the outside of formations.
It's not definite that the Patriots will continue to run the same offensive scheme next season with Amendola simply replacing Welker. Amendola's ability to move outside, coupled with Aaron Hernandez's presence on the roster, means that they can go in different directions with their prospective targets in the draft or free agency.
Without knowing the rest of the Patriots' moves, it is impossible to know exactly what role Amendola will fill for the Patriots this season. He will definitely be a favored target of Tom Brady if Brady's past with Welker is anything to go by.