COMMENTARY | Nothing has come easily for the New England Patriots this season, despite their 6-2 record suggesting otherwise. A major disappointment has been the ongoing health concerns of wide receiver Danny Amendola, who was the biggest acquisition last offseason. His inability to stay upright has to have some wondering if the team should explore cutting him after the season.
Undrafted out of Texas Tech University, Amendola spent the first four years of his professional career with the St. Louis Rams, hauling in 212 receptions for 1,885 yards and seven touchdowns. Unfortunately, various injuries caused him to miss 22 games during that time-including 20 during the previous two seasons.
After Wes Welker left via free agency this past offseason, the Patriots signed Amendola to be the new lead dog in their receiving corps. He has continued to be productive when he has played, but has also maintained his troubling trend of getting hurt and missing games.
This season, Amendola has played in four games, catching 19 passes for 174 yards. He has also missed four games because of a torn groin muscle and a concussion suffered on a hit in a game against the New Orleans Saints that appeared to knock the 27-year-old receiver out cold.
The thing about Amendola is that he doesn't seem to suffer little nagging injuries. When he gets hurt, he gets hurt.
Last year, a season in which he only played 11 games, he suffered a separated clavicle while attempting to make a catch. The separation was so severe that it was subsequently revealed it was potentially life-threatening because of how close the bone had come to his trachea and heart.
Despite the toll his body has taken, Amendola has no plans to change how he plays the game. He told USA Today's Jarrett Bell, "I'm not going to change. That's just the way I am. It's a rough game. Everybody knows that. I love the physical part of the game."
Make no mistake about it, Amendola is a talented player. However, having played in just 15 of his last 39 games, his ability to impact a team is becoming increasingly muted.
Despite what appears to be a big contract, should the Patriots seriously consider walking away from him at the end of this season?
The surprisingly easy answer to that question is no. His potential value as a player compared to what he is being paid makes it very worthwhile for New England to keep him around.
Although Amendola's contract is for five years and $31 million, as outlined by the Boston Herald's Jeff Howe, the pact is much more team-friendly when examined closely.
Only $10 million is guaranteed, along with a $6 million signing bonus. The receiver will make relatively modest salaries of $2 million this year; $3 million in 2014; $4 million in 2015; $$5 million in 2016; and $6 million in 2017. He can also make up to an additional $500,000 each season based on the number of games he is on the active roster.
The roster bonus was a master stroke by the Patriots. Knowing his health issues, they agreed to pay him $31,250 for each game he plays on top of his salary. If he stays on the field, it's a win-win situation. But if he doesn't, the team can continue to monitor him without taking a massive financial hit.
Starting quarterback Tom Brady has had to break in three rookie wide receivers in Aaron Dobson, Josh Boyce and Kenbrell Thompkins this season, which has predictably led to ups and downs, and some visible frustration. The Patriots would like nothing more than the participation of Amendola, since he represents the most experienced (and likely most talented) receiver on the roster.
Amendola has already shown he can work with Brady to form a dynamic pairing. In the team's Week 1 victory against the Buffalo Bills, he caught 10 passes for 104 yards in a come-from-behind effort. Naturally, he missed several series in the middle of the game in what was later found out to be his torn groin muscle-which kept him out of the next three contests.
If healthy, he could possibly be one of the top 10-20 receivers in the NFL. Of course that's a big "if," but one that is still very much worth chasing.
There has to be frustration that Amendola can't seem to find any momentum because of his crash-test dummy playing style. However, that's the type of player he is, and the Patriots knew what they were getting into when they brought him on board. It's too early to condemn him on his past, as the team and fans should still be excited about what he can possibly do in the future.
In addition to the Yahoo Contributor Network, Andrew Martin has written extensively for Bleacher Report and a number of print publications and websites on the topics of history and sports (particularly the Boston Red Sox and New England Patriots). He also produces his own blog and has appeared on various sports talk shows and podcasts.
You can also follow Andrew on Twitter: @HistorianAndrew.
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