The New England Patriots made one of the most interesting and controversial player swaps in recent memory. The reigning AFC East champions let Pro Bowl receiver Wes Welker walk in free agency Wednesday but quickly replaced him with former St. Louis Rams receiver Danny Amendola.
After Wednesday's events, it is clear the Patriots valued Amendola over Welker. ESPN's Adam Schefter reports New England signed Amendola to a five-year, $31 million contract. The Patriots reportedly low-balled Welker with a two-year, $10 million offer. Welker signed with the Denver Broncos instead for two years and $12 million.
Based strictly on money, the Patriots made it clear they believe Amendola is a better fit for New England than Welker. But this is a rare miscalculation for the Patriots. Amendola is not an upgrade over Welker, no matter how the team spins it.
Welker’s numbers are far superior, and Welker is significantly more durable than the injury-plagued Amendola. In addition, it will take years for Amendola to develop anything close to the same chemistry Welker had with quarterback Tom Brady.
Ironically, New England’s franchise quarterback is probably the biggest loser from today’s events. Brady recently signed an extension and created cap room in part to keep Welker, his good friend and most reliable weapon, on the roster. Instead the Patriots spent it on a less-proven, less-durable slot receiver in Amendola.
The only thing New England gained in this swap is youth. Amendola (27) is four years younger than Welker (31). That explains the long-term contract. But it doesn’t mean Amendola will be more productive than Welker over the next two or three seasons.
The Patriots are often right about personnel decisions. But Wednesday's Welker-for-Amendola swap feels like a mistake for a variety of reasons.