New England Patriots: Assessing Danny Amendola’s Value

Danny Amendola will have to take another paycut if he wants to remain with the New England Patriots, but just how much money is he worth?

This past season, Danny Amendola caught just 23 passes for 243 yards and four touchdowns. Those numbers are hardly reflective of a player of high importance, but Amendola isn’t like every other player in this league. Thankfully for him, the New England Patriots aren’t like every other team either.

Pats Pulpit’s Oliver Thomas wrote about how Amendola played a critical role in the Patriots Super Bowl victory by being a “catalyst” for the team down the stretch.

The Patriots know that Amendola will get injured. It’s inevitable. His past injury history and love for contact mean that he will only give the team a limited number of quality snaps. While Amendola has played in at least 12 games in each of the past four seasons, he only averages 60 targets per season.

Even though his first season with the Patriots was branded a disappointment due to nagging injuries and just 633 receiving yards on the stat sheet, it was immediately clear that the Patriots preferred to use Amendola in high-leverage situations. In his second season, Amendola had an even smaller regular season role with 27 receptions for 200 yards, but he made his presence felt in the postseason of his first Super Bowl run with 11 receptions and three touchdowns.

That served as a springboard for a stellar third season with the Pats, in which Amendola caught 65 passes with a 74.7 percent catch rate. At times, he was the team’s only true threat in the passing game, as the Patriots were dealt a bevy of injuries that season.

Amendola’s numbers were similar in 2016, albeit in a reduced capacity. The Patriots never gave him more than four targets in a single game, and he missed the final four games of the regular season with a high-ankle sprain. But, again, he came up huge in the Super Bowl with eight receptions for 78 yards and a touchdown on 11 targets.

You can see that Amendola’s career arch makes him a unique player, and that actually hurts his value. For example, let’s compare him to Tennessee Titans wide receiver Rishard Matthews, who signed a contract worth $5 million per year in free agency last offseason with a $3.333 million cap charge in 2016. Amendola, meanwhile, carried a $2.917 million cap charge for one season of work in 2016 after taking a paycut to stay in Foxboro.

Danny Amendola

Feb 5, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; New England Patriots wide receiver Danny Amendola (80) runs against Atlanta Falcons cornerback C.J. Goodwin (29) in the fourth quarter during Super Bowl LI at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

From what I’ve seen on film, Amendola is the superior player to Matthews. He has better hands, he runs some of the most creative and precise routes in the NFL, and he outplays his frame at the catch point. The thing is, he isn’t that much better than Matthews, and he’s less explosive. More importantly, he’s more prone to injury and less productive. Matthews had a 65/945/9 last season as Marcus Mariota‘s most effective wide receiver, whereas Amendola was the Patriots third-best wideout.

An examination of other wide receiver contracts reveals that the likes of Ted Ginn Jr. Anquan Boldin, and Brandon LaFell all had smaller cap charges than Amendola.

Amendola led the Patriots with a 79.3 percent catch rate, and that stat is a testament to his reliability over the past two seasons. But in comparison to Hogan, he just isn’t as valuable. Hogan, aside from the fact that he’s able to absorb more snaps, averaged 17.9 yards per reception. While Amendola had the higher catch rate, he had 437 fewer yards. Amendola’s 8.4 yards per target were certainly impressive, but Hogan averaged 11.7. Can Amendola really claim that he’s worth more money than Hogan, who will carry a $2.968 million cap charge in 2017? Hogan, by the way, signed a deal worth $4 million per season.

If he tries to, he’ll tout this stat. In the fourth quarter and overtime of games in 2016-17, Amendola caught 12 of 13 passes for a 92.3 percent catch rate, furthering the notion that he is a “clutch” receiver. The caveat with this stat is that it favors wide receivers who aren’t the team’s top option, as evidenced by Julian Edelman‘s 51.2 percent catch rate in these situations. Top receivers tend to receive more attention and lower-quality targets in high-leverage situations.

That’s not to take away from Amendola, but it’s clear that he won’t have high value around the league. Not many teams have the luxury of signing a player who won’t be able to play a huge amount of snaps and simply derives his value from coming up big when “saved” for important games, such as in the postseason. Amendola is only valuable to a pass-happy contender that has interest in a slot-type weapon and likes spreading the ball around.

Now, that actually describes more teams than just the New England Patriots. The Atlanta Falcons could fit this mold, and you could say the same for the top three teams in the AFC West. The problem is, how many of those teams would pay more money than the Patriots would for a player who is the equivalent of a veteran, three-point shooter in the NBA?

Judging by the familiarity and fit between both the Patriots and Amendola, a contract restructuring is in the best interest of both parties. ESPN Boston’s Mike Reiss wrote that Amendola won’t return at his $6 million salary in 2017, and he mentions that money isn’t a deciding factor for the wide receiver at this stage.

Ultimately, I think Amendola will have to accept a one-year contract that is equal to or less than Hogan’s 2017 cap charge. I would be surprised if one of the two sides balks at it. On paper, Amendola’s restructured deal was worth $4.75 million per season, but he had to have known that the Pats wouldn’t pay him in 2017. After all, this is the strategy they’ve used with Darrelle Revis and others: dangle a big-money second year that they have no intention of following through on.

As Reiss wrote, Amendola isn’t interested in the money, and I would expect him to stay at home somewhere under $3 million next year. If he wants to keep chasing rings, he might not have much of a choice.

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