The New England Patriots wasted no time finding a younger model, after Wes Welker departed for the Denver Broncos in free agency. The Patriots moved quickly to sign youthful Welker-clone Danny Amendola.
NFL.com reported that the Patriots gave Amendola a five-year $31 million contract, to come and do the same things Welker did for years in the New England offense. These things primarily include attacking defenses from the slot and exploiting the underneath zones.
Like Welker, Amendola has established a niche in these areas. In many ways, the former St. Louis Rams star is simply a younger version of Welker. Short and quick, Amendola is a tricky matchup for any coverage scheme.
His route-running is precise and crafty and he has a natural flair for getting open. If there is one worry with Amendola, it concerns his durability. He has missed 20 games since 2010.
However, when healthy few can argue Amendola is a reliable and prolific wideout. He hoards catches, recording 63 in only eight starts in 2012. In 2010 he made 85 receptions. It is certainly not a stretch to imagine Amendola breaking the 100-catch barrier with the Patriots, the way Welker often did.
One area where Amendola possibly offers something different from Welker is his underrated penchant for getting deep. He has averaged over eight yards a catch three times in his four-year career. Amendola can stretch the field in the right scheme.
However, that clearly won't be his primary focus in New England. The Patriots have signed him to be the active clutch receiver Welker was. He possesses the right skills for the role and Tom Brady shouldn't have a problem quickly striking up a similar rapport.
Featuring the skills of 'joker' tight ends like Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez has dominated the Patriots offensive schemes in recent seasons. However, a diminutive and intelligent slot receiver has always been one of Brady's favorite weapons.
In the early part of his career it was Troy Brown who occupied this vital role. Welker took over and instantly became Brady's go-to target. A short, clever speedster is still the kind of underneath target Brady looks to first when things get tough.
Amendola now becomes that player. By signing the 27-year-old, the Patriots aren't so much moving on from the 31-year-old Welker. They are simply refreshing his crucial position.