Patriots lose Welker, add Amendola
New England Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker (83) gestures to fans as he leaves the field after their 23-16 win in an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012, in Miami. Welker tied Jerry Rice's NFL record by making at least 10 receptions for the 17th time. He had 12 catches for 103 yards and a score. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
St. Louis Rams wide receiver Danny Amendola, right, and teammate Nick Johnson of the practice squad take part in a NFL organised coaching session for some London schoolchildren in Regents Park, London, Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2012. The Rams are to play the New England Patriots at Wembley stadium in London, Sunday, Oct. 28 in a regular season game. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – Wes Welker is saying goodbye to Tom Brady and hello to Peyton Manning.
After spending six years with Brady in New England, the Pro Bowl receiver agreed to a two-year, $12 million deal yesterday to team up with Manning on the Denver Broncos.
Just hours later, according to sources, the Patriots plugged the hole at slot receiver by agreeing to a five-year, $31 million deal with Danny Amendola, who has spent his entire four-year career with the St. Louis Rams.
Welker caught 118 passes for 1,354 yards and scored six touchdowns last year, helping the Pats go 12-4 and make the AFC title game before they lost to the Baltimore Ravens.
Amendola played in 11 games and caught 63 passes for 666 yards (10.6 average) and three touchdowns. In his four seasons with the Rams, he caught 196 passes for 1,726 yards (8.8 average) and seven TDs. Since he came into the league in 2009, however, he has missed 23 games, while Welker has missed only three games during that span.
Amendola will be reunited with Josh McDaniels, who was the Rams’ offensive coordinator during the 2011 season and now fills that role with the Patriots.
Welker, meanwhile, will go from one certain future Hall of Fame quarterback to another.
That the Broncos are signing a top player away from New England certainly didn’t hurt, either.
“Anytime you can take a player from a team you have to compete against, it helps, especially the caliber of Wes Welker,” Broncos boss John Elway said. “New England is there year in and year out and that’s a team we have to beat to get where we want to get.”
The Welker signing was the highlight of a big day for the Broncos, who once again made a major splash in free agency.
Denver also came to terms on a two-year deal with defensive tackle Terrance Knighton, formerly of Jacksonville, and a one-year contract with linebacker Stewart Bradley, who played with the Cardinals the past two seasons.
Last year, the Broncos won the high-stakes contest to sign Manning, prompting Elway to quip, “Plan B? I don’t have a Plan B. We’re going with Plan A.”
Coming off a 13-3 season during which the Broncos looked like a Super Bowl contender before losing to Baltimore in the division round of the playoffs, Elway is clearly on the same path this time.
He picked up the league’s most productive receiver to play in the slot where Brandon Stokley was last season. Welker’s five 100-catch seasons are the most in the NFL. He has been selected to the Pro Bowl in each of his past five seasons and was an All-Pro four of the past five years.
“When you look at Wes in the middle of the field, you can’t cover him,” Elway said. “He does such a tremendous job of getting open, finding seams in zones, beating man-to-man coverage. So, he’ll be a huge asset for us inside.”