Receiver Wes Welker switched from one AFC powerhouse to another, going… (Jim Rogash / Getty Images )
After contract negotiations with New England apparently didn't go to his liking, free-agent receiver Wes Welker left the Patriots on Wednesday and agreed to a two-year deal worth a reported $12 million with the Denver Broncos.
The five-time Pro Bowl selection has caught more than 110 passes and gained more than 1,150 yards in five of the last six seasons with the Patriots. Now he will be catching passes from Peyton Manning with another reigning division champ in the AFC.
The Patriots moved quickly to get quarterback Tom Brady another target, agreeing to terms with former St. Louis Rams receiver Danny Amendola on a five-year, $31-million deal, with $10 million guaranteed.
Amendola had 63 receptions for 666 yards and three touchdowns last season, missing five games with a foot injury. He played in just one game the previous year due to a broken arm. As a second-year pro in 2010, he took part in all 16 games, six as a starter, and had 85 catches for 689 yards and three touchdowns.
Writers from around Tribune Co. discuss whether the Patriots made a mistake letting Welker go. Check back throughout the day for their responses and feel free to join the discussion with a comment of your own.
Matt Vensel, Baltimore Sun
If you are simply looking at the signings -- the Patriots swapping Wes Welker for Danny Amendola -- sure, they became a little less talented and a lot less stable, at least for the 2013 season.
The annual paychecks of those two players are similar, as are their skill sets, but enough with the talk about Welker and Amendola being carbon copies of each other because they are short, shifty, former Texas Tech players.
Welker is better, savvier and more durable, having missed just three games in six years in New England. And although Amendola is a productive, younger slot receiver, he has missed 20 games the past two seasons.
But I'm going to reserve judgment on New England's off-season until it is over. If they can add a legitimate deep threat -- the one that Brandon Lloyd was supposed to become -- who can open things up underneath, then letting Welker walk to the Denver Broncos might be justifiable.
[Updated at 10:35 a.m.:
Sam Farmer, Los Angeles Times
The Patriots made a big mistake in letting Wes Welker walk, especially to a Peyton Manning-led team so well positioned to make a Super Bowl run. That Welker agreed to a relatively modest deal with the Broncos indicates New England really must have insulted him with a low-ball offer.
Welker, football’s premier slot receiver, had 672 catches over the last six seasons, with at least 111 in five of them. That leaves a gaping hole in the stat sheet and strips Tom Brady of his favorite and most familiar target.
Meanwhile, Manning has a sure-handed troika of dangerous receivers -- Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker and Welker -- a young defense that outplayed the offense last season, and a blow dealt to a key rival even before the start of the season.
Paul Doyle, Hartford Courant
Allowing Wes Welker to walk isn't a mistake if the Patriots beef up their defense and add a deep threat for Tom Brady. But if they continue to walk the same path with Danny Amendola simply replacing Welker, this move will prove to be a mistake.
Welker has been a prolific slot receiver in New England's offense, a durable guy who's been Brady's favorite target. But the Patriots have two elite tight ends in Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez to go along with the talented if brittle Amendola, so Brady has plenty of middle-of-the-field targets. They need a deep threat and, more importantly, they need a shut-down cornerback and a pass rusher.
If they improve the defense and Brady spreads the ball around, New England will be a Super Bowl contender. If they think Amendola will simply be Welker Part II, they've made a huge mistake.
Dan Pompei, Chicago Times
Allowing Wes Welker to leave was a coldblooded move that apparently angered Tom Brady, as well as many Patriots’ fans. But it also was a calculated move. And a move that very well makes the Patriots better in the long run.
Welker still is a fine player. But he is 31 years old. He probably won’t be playing at the level he is at for many more years. The player the Patriots’ replaced Welker with, Danny Amendola, is four years younger, and he’s more versatile. He arguably has the potential to develop into a player who can produce the way Welker did for the Patriots.
Amendola has never had Brady throwing to him, and he’s never played in an explosive passing offense the way he will now. He can make Patriots fans forget about losing Welker very quickly.]
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