Danny Amendola

East Notes: Amendola, Cowboys, Giants, Dez, Jonathan Allen

After playing five seasons with the Patriots, receiver Danny Amendola signed with the rival Dolphins in the 2018 offseason. The move happened, in part, because New England did not come close to matching the two-year, $12MM deal he received from Miami, the receiver told Jimmy Hascup of USA Today.

After taking pay cuts in the past to stay with the Patriots, the veteran wideout was expecting to have a chance to stay with the team. That did not happen with the notoriously stingy Bill Belichick.

“When free agency broke, I came to the realization that he wasn’t going to really come close to any of the other offers I had,” Amendola said. “I had to make a decision for my family and go down to Miami and continue my career there.”

Amendola also commented on playing for Belichick, saying, “It’s not easy, that’s for sure. He’s an (expletive) sometimes,” Amendola said. “There were a lot of things I didn’t like about playing for him, but I must say, the things I didn’t like were all in regards to getting the team better, and I respected him.”

Here’s more from around the East:

  • The Cowboys will be looking for a new go-to receiver after the departure of Dez Bryant. One of those candidates is Terrance Williams, who will be ready for work in June after recovering from a broken foot earlier in the offseason, ESPN’s Todd Archer writes. Though he will be ready to go, Williams is best used as a No. 2 or 3 wideout due to his inconsistency.
  • Speaking of Bryant, the receiver reportedly left his meeting with Jerry Jones saying he would see the team twice next season. If he is going to join a division foe, the Giants seem like an unlikely spot, SportsNet New York’s Ralph Vacchiano writes. The team’s depth at receiver with Odell Beckham Jr., Brandon Marshall and Sterling Shephard seems to indicate there is no room for Bryant.
  • The Redskins are expected to have defensive tackle Jonathan Allen when the team resumes activities next week, NBC Sports’ JP Finlay writes. He suffered a Lisfranc injury in Week 5 of 2017 and did not play the rest of the season. A healthy Allen could helped Washington improve on its last-ranked run defense in 2017.

AFC Notes: Patriots, Amendola, Broncos, Browns

Similar to many draft pundits, Bill Belichick is also participating in his own mock drafts. Yesterday, the Patriots head coach provided some insight into the organization’s draft preparation to Jim McBride of the Boston Globe.

“Sometimes we do that, yeah,” Belichick said about mock drafts. “I’d say sometimes it just sparks a conversation. We might internally say, ‘OK, how about Player A and Player B? Player B and Player C?’ And if you did a mock draft where kind of each [staffer] has a team and, ‘OK, it’s your turn. You pick this.’ And now you look at the board, it’s our turn to pick, and ‘Gee, here’s a scenario we hadn’t really thought about. We hadn’t really pictured that this guy would be there.’ So that can kind of stimulate some [conversation].”

Belichick also explained the risks of not evaluating many of the potential prospects.

“Again, it’s just an exercise to, I’d say, just kind of complete the process of preparation,” he explained. “That’s the way it is on draft day, too. A lot of times you’re sitting there looking at players that I thought this player would be there and he’s long gone, or I didn’t think this player would be there and he’s still there…If you haven’t done enough work on the player and he’s still there but you really don’t know the player as well as you should because you thought he wouldn’t be there, then that puts you in a little bit of a dilemma.”

Let’s take a look at some other notes out of the AFC…

  • Wide receiver Danny Amendola told ESPN’s Mike Reiss that the Patriots‘ offer didn’t come close to the two-year, $12MM ($8.25MM guaranteed) deal he took with the Dolphins. “I came in with an open mind,” Amendola said. “I understand Bill runs a tight ship, and he hasn’t been known to pay his players, really. I understood that I gave money back to him so I could play for him and play for my teammates and fulfill my side of the contract, and at the end of the day, I had faith that he was going to give me an opportunity to stay. When free agency broke, I came to the realization that he wasn’t going to really come close to any of the other offers I had. I had to make a decision for my family and go down to Miami and continue my career there.”
  • The Broncos claimed C.J. Smith from the Browns yesterday, and Mike Klis of 9News in Denver writes that the team has had interest in the cornerback for some time. The organization had been eyeing Smith since his days at North Dakota State, and they expressed interest in him when he wasn’t selected during the 2016 draft. The 24-year-old initially joined the Eagles before signing with the Browns’ practice squad.
  • The Browns have named Larry Jackson as their new head of strength and conditioning, reports Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com. Jackson had previously served as Texas A&M’s director of football sports performance, and he also served as the school’s NFL liaison. He’ll be replacing Adam Beard, who will stick around the organization in an advisory role. The Browns have also added Dale Jones and Monty Gibson as assistants, and they’ve retained Evan Marcus and Josh Christovich.

Dolphins To Sign WR Danny Amendola

Danny Amendola is staying in the AFC East, but he’ll do so with a different team. The Patriots free agent has agreed to sign with the Dolphins, according to NFL Network’s Dan Hellie (on Twitter). Armando Salguero of The Miami Herald (on Twitter) has confirmed the news. It’s a two-year deal worth $12MM with $8.25MM guaranteed, according to Peter Schrager of NFL.com (on Twitter). Schrager notes that the deal includes incentives, but it’s not immediately clear if those incentives are factored into the $12MM figure.

Amendola was vocal about his desire to stay with the Patriots, but New England’s cap crunch has led him to sign elsewhere. He’ll now face his old friends twice per season and he might make the Pats regret the decision to let him leave.

Amendola accepted several pay cuts in order to stick on the Patriots’ roster in recent years, but the offers were too good this time around for the wide receiver to stay put. The veteran earned roughly $6MM over the last three years with the Patriots and he’ll earn more than that in guarantees alone with Miami.

After a down season in 2016, Amendola racked up 61 receptions, 659 yards, and two touchdowns during the 2017 regular season before stepping up with a 26/348/2 line in the postseason. Amendola has never topped 700 yards receiving in a single season, but he is a strong weapon in today’s quick passing game.

The Dolphins jumped at the chance to land Amendola after parting ways with Jarvis Landry this offseason. They used the franchise tag on Landry, an excellent slot receiver, to keep him with a one-year, ~$16MM placeholder before shipping him to the Browns. Amendola will step into Landry’s role and while he might not offer the same production, he comes at a much better value.

This has proven to be a seller’s market for this year’s top free agent wideouts. Already, Allen Robinson, Sammy Watkins, and Paul Richardson have landed lucrative multi-year deals. Amendola joins that group with a solid pay day of his own.

[RELATED: Dolphins Depth Chart]

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC East Notes: Jets, Pats, Shelton

The Jets, armed with $90MM of salary cap space, are of course prepared to make a major push for this year’s Holy Grail of free agents, Kirk Cousins. But Gang Green has plenty of needs to fill outside of quarterback, and GM Mike Maccagnan is making no bones about his team’s anticipated activity level when free agency opens this week. Maccagnan said at the scouting combine, “Obviously we’ll be very active on the first day [of free agency] in terms of the higher profile guys. Everybody is well aware we have quite a bit of cap space to work with. There are quite a few players we’re interested in” (via Brian Costello of the New York Post).

Per Costello, the Jets are poised to re-sign Josh McCown if they fall short in their pursuit of Cousins. The team also needs upgrades at running back, center, and cornerback. Wide receiver and inside linebacker could also be positions that New York targets.

Now let’s take a look at a few more notes from the AFC East:

  • Dion Lewis‘ abilities as a runner and receiver allowed the Patriots to run all sorts of formations in 2017, but it is widely believed that he will not be back in New England in 2018. Fellow free agent Jerick McKinnon, who has thrived in a similar role in Minnesota, could be a logical replacement, per Phil Perry of NBCSports.com. However, even though McKinnon will not break the bank, Perry thinks it is more likely that the Pats re-sign Rex Burkhead and address their RB needs in the draft.
  • Ben Volin of the Boston Globe tweets that the newly-acquired Danny Shelton will count for $2.03MM against the Patriots‘ cap in 2018 (which matches his base salary). As we learned yesterday, New England will have to decide whether to exercise Shelton’s fifth-year option, which has a projected value of roughly $7MM, by early May. The Browns, meanwhile, will be saddled with about $1.7MM in dead money as a result of the trade, and Mike Reiss of ESPN.com says the 2018 fifth-round pick the Patriots received in the Shelton swap is expected to be Cleveland’s lower pick in the round, No. 159 overall. Reiss adds that New England, which shipped a 2019 third-rounder to the Browns, could recoup a third-round pick in next year’s draft through the compensatory system.
  • In the same piece linked above, Reiss says the Patriots will not stray from their usual financial discipline in their efforts to re-sign Danny Amendola, but given Amendola’s impressive 2017 campaign, he says other teams may view him as a pure No. 3 wideout instead of the No. 3/4 option with a limited workload that he has been with the Pats (and those teams could offer to pay him accordingly). As such, Amendola — who has taken pay cuts to remain with New England in the past — could have a harder-than-expected decision to make this month.
  • Reiss also sees Titans LB Avery Williamson as a “sleeper” target for the Patriots when free agency opens in a couple of days. Williamson is in his prime and gives New England the type of off-the-line LB it is looking for.
  • We learned earlier today that the Dolphins continue to contemplate moving on from Ndamukong Suh, though it makes more sense for the team to either retain him — perhaps with a restructured contract — or trade him than it does to simply cut him.

Top 2018 NFL Free Agents By Position: Offense

NFL free agency will get underway on Wednesday, March 14th, and while the list of free agents will change between now and then, we do have some idea of who will be available when free agency kicks off. The frenzy is right around the corner and it’s time for us to break down the outlook for each position. We’ll start today on offense, before getting to defense and special teams later this week.

Listed below are our rankings for the top 15 free agents at each offensive position. The rankings aren’t necessarily determined by the value of the contracts that each player is expected to land in free agency, they are simply the players we like the most at each position, with both short- and long-term value taken into account. Restricted and exclusive-rights free agents are not listed here since they are unlikely to actually reach the open market. The same goes for players who have been franchise tagged or transition tagged.

We’ll almost certainly be higher or lower on some guys than you are, so we encourage you to make your voice heard in our comments section to let us know which free agents we’ve got wrong.

Here’s our breakdown of the current top 15 free agents by offensive position for 2018:

Quarterback:

  1. Kirk Cousins
  2. Drew Brees
  3. Case Keenum
  4. A.J. McCarron
  5. Sam Bradford
  6. Teddy Bridgewater
  7. Colin Kaepernick
  8. Josh McCown
  9. Mike Glennon
  10. Drew Stanton
  11. Jay Cutler
  12. Chase Daniel
  13. Ryan Fitzpatrick
  14. Brock Osweiler
  15. Tom Savage

There were many difficult calls when putting this list together, but ranking Kirk Cousins as the No. 1 QB available was not among them. Cousins is the best quarterback to reach free agency in recent history and he’ll become the highest-paid player of all-time – at least, for some period of time – in mid-March. Who will make history with Cousins? That’s anyone’s guess right now. The Browns have more cap room than any other team, but a recent report from Adam Schefter of ESPN.com listed the Broncos, Cardinals, Jets, and Vikings as the final suitors for Cousins. Of those four, the Jets have the most money to work with, but they’re concerned about the Vikings winning out and Cousins’ desire to win could point him in another direction. If the Broncos and Cardinals want in on the Cousins sweepstakes, they’ll have to get creative with the books.

Drew Brees is included here, but by his own admission, he’ll be re-signing with the Saints rather than testing the open waters of free agency. Unless the Saints lowball their franchise QB, it’s hard to see him leaving New Orleans.

Case Keenum put together a tremendous season for the Vikings, but he doesn’t have a history of success beyond 2017. There will be plenty of interest in Keenum, but only after QB-needy teams strike out on Cousins. The incumbent Vikings could re-sign Keenum, but right now, it seems like they are intent on exploring the Cousins waters first.

There isn’t a ton of footage on A.J. McCarron, which made his placement on this list awfully tricky. We know this much: McCarron did well in place of Dalton in the home stretch of the 2015 season and his former offensive coordinator Hue Jackson was salivating at the chance of landing him before the Browns bungled the trade with the Bengals. McCarron’s relative youth is a plus (he won’t turn 28 until September) and his lack of experience can be looked at as a positive. Unlike some of the other names on this list, he hasn’t run up his NFL odometer.

What will NFL teams make of Teddy Bridgewater and Sam Bradford this offseason? Not long ago, both seemed like quality starting options. However, there are serious injury questions about both players and any team signing them will either look to backstop them with another decent option or ask them to come onboard as a QB2. With that in mind, one has to wonder if Bradford would consider retirement if asked to hold the clipboard for another signal caller. Bradford has earned upwards of $110MM over the years in the NFL, so it’s safe to say that he has enough money in the bank to call it quits if he wants. For now, he’s intent on playing.

Colin Kaepernick‘s placement on this list is sure to draw some strong reactions from his fans and detractors alike. Looking purely at his football ability, there’s no question that he belongs on someone’s roster. At minimum, Kaepernick profiles as a high-end backup, even after a year out of the game.

Quarterbacks coaches have long believed that Mike Glennon is capable of great things, due in part to his height. At 6’7″, he can see over any defensive line, but he hasn’t done much on the field to prove that he is a quality Week 1 starting option. Josh McCown, who is a decade his senior, edges him here for his surprisingly strong performance in 2017 at the helm of a weak Jets offense.

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Danny Amendola To Have Strong Market

Free agent wide receiver Danny Amendola‘s market is “unfolding favorably,” according to Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald, who adds it wouldn’t be surprising if the veteran wideout is able to earn $3-5MM annually on his next contract.Danny Amendola (vertical)

Amendola has taken several pay cuts in order to stick on the New England roster over the past few years, and his resulting cap charges have stayed the near the low end of that $3-5MM range. As Howe notes, the mere fact that Amendola was willing to accept those pay reductions likely means he’d prefer to stay with the Patriots for the long term, but New England could need to fend off other suitors.

Following a down 2016 campaign, Amendola managed 61 receptions, 659 yards, and two touchdowns during the 2017 regular season before stepping up with a 26/348/2 line in the postseason. Acting as Tom Brady‘s security blanket, the now 32-year-old Amendola has never topped 700 yards receiving in a single season, but his proficiency in the quick passing game makes him desirable in today’s NFL.

If he does reach the open market, Amendola will join a free agent wideout class that also includes Allen Robinson, Sammy Watkins, and Marqise Lee, and Paul Richardson.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC East Notes: McDaniels, Patriots, Amendola

The NFL is expected to change the rule to allow teams to hire coaches, even while their teams are still active in the playoffs (Twitter link via Judy Battista of NFL.com). There has been talk of doing this before, but there was a renewed focus on the rule change this offseason after Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels bailed on becoming the Colts’ new head coach at the last minute.

While McDaniels gears up for another year as New England’s OC, here’s more from the AFC East:

  • Patriots wide receiver Danny Amendola is eligible for the open market, but he wants to stay put. “I’m a free agent this year, so let’s say — the unknown. We’ll see what happens. I definitely want to be here. To tell you the truth, I don’t want to leave. But it’s a business. I’ve learned that,” Amendola said (via Mike Reiss of ESPN.com). Amendola earned just over $3MM last season as he caught 61 passes for 659 yards and two touchdowns. The 32-year-old could earn cash in elsewhere, but he sounds pretty intent on staying in New England.
  • Bills head coach Sean McDermott says that releasing quarterback Tyrod Taylor is not currently in the team’s plans. “Tyrod is a good player,” McDermott said (Twitter link via ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter). “It’s way too early to take anything off the table, other than cutting him at this point, which is not in our plans.”
  • Bills GM Brandon Beane says that he has been in contact with the agent for defensive tackle Kyle Williams (Twitter link via Joe Buscaglia of WKBW). At this point, Beane is unsure as to whether Williams is considering retirement. Last year, the Bills reportedly had to convince him to return for a 12th NFL season.
  • On Wednesday, Jets running back Matt Forte announced his retirement from the NFL.
  • The Dolphins are expected to huddle up with the agent for Jarvis Landry on Wednesday evening. Miami hit the wide receiver with the franchise tag last week, but it has been widely reported that the Dolphins are looking to trade him.

Patriots Notes: Hightower, Hicks, Amendola

Here’s a look at the Pats:

  • The Patriots will probably consider trading for an inside linebacker in the wake of Dont’a Hightower‘s injury, but they also have to think carefully about further mortgaging their future, Mike Reiss of ESPN.com writes. Already, the Eagles are on track to send a fourth-round pick to the Eagles for the Eric Rowe deal plus 2018 fifth- and seventh-round picks to the Seahawks to acquire Cassius Marsh and a 2019 sixth-round pick in a deal with the Lions for cornerback Johnson Bademosi.
  • Hightower isn’t their only injury concern. Wide receiver Danny Amendola is dealing with a hyperextended knee, as Jeff Howe of The Boston Herald writes. Amendola’s injury, which is nowhere near as serious as Hightower’s, happened during a punt return against the Falcons. Amendola missed practice on Wednesday, but managed to return Thursday, so he could theoretically gut it out on Sunday against the Chargers. Alternatively, they may look to rest the 31-year-old for a bit with the bye week on the horizon. The Amendola injury could impact the Pats’ course of action in filling Hightower’s shoes. They might need a 53-man roster spot to add a wide receiver, or even a defensive tackle in the wake of Malcom Brown‘s ankle injury.
  • Coach Bill Belichick called defensive lineman Akiem Hicks at the last minute in 2016 to try and sign him in free agency, Patrick Finley of the Sun-Times writes. Ultimately, the reunion didn’t happen and Chicago is grateful for that. In 2015, Hicks totaled three sacks in 13 regular-season games for New England and was ranked by Pro Football Focus as its 14th-best defensive tackle. In 2016, Hicks finished out with a career-high 54 tackles and seven sacks, setting himself up for a four-year, $48MM extension with the Bears this September. Through seven games this year, he already has six sacks and 24 tackles. Within the article, Hicks also blamed his so-so performance in New Orleans on being miscast as an edge rusher.

AFC Notes: Bengals, Barnidge, Texans, Pats

A “near mutiny” among Bengals players left head coach Marvin Lewis no choice but to fire offensive coordinator Ken Zampese on Friday, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk reports. The Bengals’ best offensive player, wide receiver A.J. Green, was part of the unhappy bunch, notes Florio, though Jim Owczarski of the Cincinnati Enquirer disputes the notion that there was anything resembling a “mutiny” (Twitter link). There was a disconnect between Zampese and the players, though, Owczarski adds. The Zampese-led Bengals scored a mere nine points in the team’s first two games, both losses, and the offense racked up just 516 yards in that span. Green posted respectable production along the way, picking up 10 receptions for 141 yards, but new O-coordinator Bill Lazor is going to have to involve him (and the Bengals’ other top skill players) in their attack more, Florio observes. Green agrees, having told reporters after Thursday night’s 13-9 loss to Houston: “We are playing like sh– right now. We got to find a way to get our playmakers the ball. That’s it. It’s a superstar-driven league. You are not going to win without them” (via Paul Dehner Jr. of the Enquirer).

More from the AFC:

  • It appears free agent tight end Gary Barnidge‘s stay on the unemployment line will continue. Barnidge worked out for the Texans on Friday, but they’re not going to sign him, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com suggests (on Twitter). The team opted to add tight end MyCole Pruitt to its practice squad after his own Friday tryout. Barnidge carries a more impressive track record than Pruitt and many other tight ends, of course, having logged quality seasons in Cleveland over each of the previous two campaigns. However, the 31-year-old hasn’t been able to find work since the Browns released him after the draft.
  • The Patriots will go without linebacker Dont’a Hightower and wide receiver Danny Amendola in New Orleans on Sunday, Mike Reiss of ESPN.com writes. Hightower suffered a right knee injury in the third quarter of Week 1 against the Chiefs, perhaps helping to pave the way for a late-game collapse from New England’s defense. The Patriots yielded 21 fourth-quarter points en route to a 42-27 loss. Amendola, who was the Patriots’ leading receiver against the Chiefs (six catches, 100 yards), is dealing with a concussion and a knee injury. Down Amendola, Julian Edelman and Malcolm Mitchell, the Pats look poised to take on the Saints with Brandin Cooks, Chris Hogan and Phillip Dorsett as their only options in a suddenly thin receiving corps.
  • The Luckless Colts have settled on a quarterback for Week 2.

Fallout From Julian Edelman Injury

Tom Brady offered hopes Julian Edelman could come back this season after the Patriots‘ third preseason game Friday night, but after the team confirmed earlier today the ninth-year wideout tore his right ACL, the Pats will have to adjust again. The team’s primary slot receiver post-Wes Welker, Edelman recorded a career-high 1,106 receiving yards last season and played in 16 games. Edelman missed nearly half the season in 2015, and Brady’s production dipped without his top volume target. The iconic quarterback’s completion rate plummeted from 68 percent in nine Edelman games to 60 percent in seven contests without him. But the Patriots, as Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk notes, are deeper now and are expected to use a group effort to replace the 31-year-old receiver.

New England now employs Brandin Cooks and Chris Hogan, along with second-year player Malcolm Mitchell and a slew of viable receiving backs. Danny Amendola served as Edelman’s primary replacement in 2015, and the veteran figures to be part of the solution two years later. Florio uses New England’s 2016 Super Bowl run as an example of the resourceful team winning without a key pass-catcher. While the Pats won Super Bowl LI without Rob Gronkowski‘s services down the stretch, it’s hard to bank on the all-world tight end being available throughout this now-Edelman-less season. That said, Gronkowski did play in 15 games in both 2014 and ’15. Brady’s only played one game without Gronk or Edelman — 2015 loss to the Eagles — since the pair became the Patriots’ top chain-movers four years ago.

Here’s the latest fallout from the injury situation.

  • AFC execs and coaches concur with Florio’s assessment, to some degree. “They’ll find another way to do it. So initially, [it’ll hurt them] some, but in the end not much at all,” an AFC coach texted Albert Breer of SI.com. Another added: “Amendola will have to stay healthy and pick up the slack. It won’t be easy, but they’ll make it work.” The 31-year-old Amendola reworked his contract again this offseason to stay with the Pats in what is the final year of his deal. Amendola amassed 243 air yards last season. “Health of others is key,” an AFC exec said, via Breer. “Amendola and [Gronkowski] need to stay healthy, but their offense is diverse enough to pick it up.”
  • Edelman will still make nearly $7MM this season, with Ben Volin of the Boston Globe (Twitter link) relaying that in addition to his $3MM base salary, the slot bastion collected $3.5MM of his signing bonus and $250K workout bonus. Edelman, though, will miss out on $750K in per-game roster bonuses and a possible $500K in incentives, via Volin (on Twitter).
  • Anquan Boldin retired from the Bills last weekend and would be an intriguing fit if the 36-year-old pass-catcher could be convinced to delay his busy-looking post-career endeavors, but Volin tweets Buffalo placed Boldin on its reserve/retired list. The Bills hold his rights and would have to relinquish them to green-light a Boldin/Patriots future. Boldin also said a day after his retirement intentions surfaced he won’t make a late-season return, insisting he’s done with the game.
  • Edelman will stick around Foxborough to do his rehab, Volin tweets, likely offering help to his replacements as they attempt to fill the void created by the absence of one of the game’s top slot targets.