You probably have heard by now that the Denver Broncos have signed former New England Patriots’ wide receiver Wes Welker to a two-year deal worth $12M. A deal that New England likely could have matched with ease which has led some to believe that New England was prepared to let Welker walk because they were eye-balling another wide receiver the entire time: former St. Louis Ram Danny Amendola. The Patriots top offer to the All-Pro Welker was two years and $10M with incentives. Surely, if the Pats wanted to keep Welker, they could have matched the Broncos’ offer. But the Patriots reportedly were pursuing free agent Danny Amendola during the three-day negotiating window last weekend. Further proof that the Pats may have been planning this move all along.
But why? Do Bill Belichick and the rest of the front office actually believe Amendola can actually replace Welker’s production? I find little evidence to support this theory. Sure, Amendola is over four years younger than Welker but Amendola’s career best mark in catches is 83, a mark that Welker eclipsed every single year he wore a Patriots’ uniform. Amendola’s career best in yards is 689, another mark Welker has easily surpassed each year with the Patriots and almost matched in his final year with the Miami Dolphins. Since 2009, Amendola’s first year in the NFL, Amendola has an EPA (Expected Points Added) total of 13.9 or 0.33 EPA per game. Welker, in that same time, has an EPA of 260.4 which equates to 4.27 EPA per game. Amendola has a long way to go to catch up to Welker. The Pats also have to replace Welker’s targets. Welker averaged roughly 27% of Tom Brady’s targets since 2009 while Amendola averaged 18.5% of the Ram’s targets with little competition from other wide outs vying for targets. The Patriots cannot truly expect the oft-injured Amendola to replace the targets Welker garnered, can they? An advanced stat called SR%, or Success Rate percentage, is the percentage of plays resulting in positive Expected Points Added (EPA). Amendola has a career SR% of 50.8% while Welker has a career mark of 60.4%. Lastly, Amendola owns an 8.9% deep pass percentage, one of the lowest marks in the NFL. While Welker is not a true deep threat, he was at 15% in 2011 and 16% in 2012. Amendola will have to be durable enough to be targeted more. Amendola will have to increase his number of deep routes. Amendola will have to be much more successful in converting positive EPA plays. Amendola will actually have to be on the field.
Maybe Belichick and the front office are smarter than everyone else, they have proven to be so in the past, but to expect Amendola to fully replace Welker could come back to bite them. I am not saying Amendola won’t have a breakout season but I am saying that I absolutely do not expect him to have a Welker-esque season.