2012 Rams Offense
That is a logical assumption to make if you've seen Amendola play. The statistical evidence backs up the assumption on third down in particular. But as the Rams seek to set Amendola's value heading toward free agency, they should not blindly assume that Amendola is the key to their offense in the future.
Chris Givens was rapidly emerging as a more dynamic option and a receiver the team can build around at a bargain price. Tight end Lance Kendricks was also increasingly productive. The team cannot be certain Amendola will avoid the injury problems that have limited him to nine games over the past two seasons. They've also seen Austin Pettis improve as a red zone threat. And they have to figure 2012 second-round choice Brian Quick will contribute more this season.
Those are among the factors I wanted to throw out for discussion as the Rams and other NFL teams spent the next couple of weeks deciding whether to restrict key free agents by naming them franchise players. Amendola would receive a one-year offer for $10.357 million as a franchise wide receiver. That figure would set general expectations for the annual average on a long-term deal.
2012 Bradford on 3rd/4th Downs
The first chart shows the Rams' general stats with and without Amendola on the field last season, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Yardage-based averages are similar. The team completed touchdown passes on 4.1 percent of drop backs when Amendola was on the field, up from 2.8 percent without him.
As the second chart shows, Amendola's value to Bradford appears to peak on third and fourth downs. The Total QBR scores -- 52.6 with Amendola to only 5.7 without him -- suggest Bradford had trouble functioning without Amendola in those situations.
The relatively small sample sizes warn against overreaction, of course. Other factors beyond Amendola were at work. But the numbers affirm what we've thought about Amendola for some time. He's a very good third-down receiver. One question is whether that value extends widely enough to warrant $10 million per season.
The final chart shows Bradford's numbers on first and second downs, with and without Amendola. The traditional passing stats -- completion percentage, yards per attempt, NFL passer rating -- are nearly identical. Bradford's QBR score in these situations was actually higher without Amendola.
2012 Sam Bradford on 1st-2nd Downs
Brandon Gibson, the Rams' leader in receptions, receiving yardage and receiving touchdowns over the past two seasons, is without a contract for the 2013 season. Losing Amendola would amplify an existing need at receiver.
But it's also clear a team that drafts well can come out far ahead.
Givens, Quick and Pettis are on pace to cost the Rams less than $11 million combined over the four-year lives of their contracts. Amendola would earn nearly that much in 2013 alone if the Rams named him their franchise player.
The Rams have four first-round selections over the 2013 and 2014 drafts. They'll have opportunities to continue building their receiving corps at low cost.
In the meantime, they've got decisions to make.