The St. Louis Rams found a diamond in the rough with WR Danny Amendola. Despite his demure stature and bouncing around as an undrafted free agent, the Texas Tech product has become the Rams most reliable receiver. If he played baseball for the St. Louis Cardinals, he'd easily be the most popular player on the team for being short, white and hard-charging...aka scrappy. Playing with the Rams has relegated him to obscurity, but he might be just a year away from a contract that's anything but obscure.
The reason I bring it up is there's a small side show in New England right now with Wes Welker and his contract, playing in the final year of the five-year, $18.1 million deal he signed with the Patriots. In case you're new to the Rams and TST, Danny Amendola is Wes Welker (we have the data to prove it), and the laws of free agency say he might not even be the poor man's Wes Welker for much longer.
Welker burst onto the scene with the Dolphins, a September castoff by the Chargers in 2004. After mostly being ignored in his rookie year, take a look at Welker's stats thru 2005 and 2006 with the Dolphins:
2005: 29 catches, 434 yards, 0 TDs, 56 percent catch rate
2006: 67 catches, 687 yards, 1 TD, 67 percent catch rate
Here's Danny Amendola over the last two years with the Rams:
2009: 44 catches, 326 yards, 1 TD, 69 percent catch rate
2010: 85 catches, 689 yards, 3 TD, 69 percent catch rate
Just to be fair, I'm throwing in Welker's PR stats with the Dolphins and Amendola's with the Rams. I think Amendola has much better value as a punt returner than a kick returner. Welker, mostly, stopped returning kicks with the Patriots.
WW: 127 PR, 9.7 average yards per return, 0 TD
DA: 71 PR, 11.4 average yards per return
New England gave the Dolphins a second- and a seventh-round pick in the 2007 draft for Welker, before signing him to the deal mentioned above.
So what about the Rams and Amendola?
Amendola returns to the Rams this year at the bargain basement price of $480,000, league minimum, as an exclusive rights free agent. Next year, he'll be a free agent, most likely a restricted free agent since he'll have just three seasons of accrued experience. Who knows how free agency will play out in the CBA though, but for now we'll assume it will look something like this.
In talking about trades yesterday, the thought of trading Amendola seeped into my mind. He might be one of the Rams few desirable trade chips, a proven slot receiver with good hands. As the Rams learned last year, he's not a #1 receiver, but he can be an important part of any team's passing attack, a la Welker. Given McDaniels' experience with Welker, and Welker's level of productivity under McDaniels, it stands to reason that Amendola's not going anywhere.
He'd be well within his rights to ask for a new contract next year, even though the Rams could retain him relatively cheaply via RFA. He'll be 26 this year, the same age that Welker inked his deal with NE. If he gets an RFA tender in 2012, he'll be 27, setting him up for big ticket unrestricted free agency at age 28 in 2013.
If the Rams do picture Amendola in their long-term plans, re-signing him a year ahead of time, could make sense as they have some big contract decisions to make in 2013 including expired contracts for Ron Bartell, Bradley Fletcher, James Laurinaitis and Chris Long...to name a few.