Amendola’s 3-0 Miami Dolphins will take on the wide receiver-needy, 1-2 Patriots on Sunday. The storyline writes itself: Should the Patriots have re-signed Amendola in free agency this offseason?
On the surface, the answer is obvious. The Patriots only have Chris Hogan, Phillip Dorsett, Cordarrelle Patterson, Josh Gordon and Matthew Slater at wide receiver.
Since the offseason, the Patriots have filtered through the following receivers: Brandin Cooks, Kenny Britt, Jordan Matthews, Eric Decker, Chad Hansen, Amara Darboh, Malcolm Mitchell, Bennie Fowler, Devin Lucien, Paul Turner, Riley McCarron, Chris Lacy and K.J. Maye. They currently house Braxton Berrios and Cody Hollister on reserve lists, and Corey Coleman and Jace Billingsley are on the practice squad.
If Amendola was still on the Patriots, then it’s entirely possible many of the offensive issues that have presented themselves through three games wouldn’t exist. Amendola would give the Patriots a threat over the middle in the shallow part of the field that would help free up other receivers to get open. Quarterback Tom Brady would have a dependable weapon, and the Patriots would weather the storm through Julian Edelman’s four-game suspension much easier.
But the Patriots didn’t know Edelman would be suspended four games when they elected not to re-sign Amendola. That’s key. Cooks hadn’t been traded yet, and it was easy to assume the Patriots would get something out of Britt or Mitchell, let alone the litany of other receivers that were brought in since March.
There’s also the biggest issue: price. Amendola signed a two-year, $12 million contract with the Dolphins that included $6 million guaranteed. There’s no way the Patriots were going to pay Amendola that much money when he was going to be below at least Edelman (on a two-year, $11 million contract) and Hogan (on a three-year, $12 million contract) on the wide receiver depth chart.
Would Amendola have signed for a little less to return to New England? We have no idea and can only speculate.
Financially, it doesn’t make sense to pay your No. 3 receiver, and No. 5 target behind Rob Gronkowski and James White, more than your No. 1 and No. 2 receivers. The Patriots simply don’t do that.
Amendola never topped 65 catches, 666 yards or four touchdowns with the Patriots. He was a playoff hero, but it’s unlikely he was going to be putting up 10-catch, 100-yard regular season performances with Edelman out.
It’s also worth noting Amendola has 11 catches for 100 yards and one punt return for 2 yards with no touchdowns through three games. He’s fourth among Dolphins wide receivers in yards.
It’s easy to say in hindsight, with Edelman suspended and all of those receivers on the scrap heap, that the Patriots took a risk that didn’t pan out by letting Amendola walk. But also consider that the Patriots don’t even currently have the cap space needed to roster a $6 million Amendola — they have just $3.6 million in cap space.
Assuming the Patriots actually want some cap space to make moves during the season, they would have had to free up an additional $6 million just to sign Amendola.
And in two short weeks, the Patriots’ wide receiver issues might dissipate with Edelman back and Gordon in the fold. So far, everyone’s saying all the right things about Gordon. If he keeps his head on straight, then he could wind up being this team’s top receiver.
When it comes to Amendola, it’s possible in this situation to have two logical semi-contrasting simultaneous thoughts in your head. Yes, he would have helped the Patriots through four weeks, but it wasn’t logical to bring him back at the price he was commanding in free agency without the knowledge of Edelman’s suspension.