The Detroit Lions made their first significant signing in free agency Monday morning, as they inked wide receiver Danny Amendola to a one-year deal worth upwards of $5.75 million, with a reported $4.5 million guaranteed.
It’s not the high-profile signing that maybe some fans were hoping for to replace Golden Tate, who was one of Detroit’s star players over the past few years, but it does make some logical sense. Here are my overall thoughts of the signing.
There’s no question that Amendola fits one of the Lions’ biggest offensive needs as a slot receiver. With Tate gone, and his replacement Bruce Ellington released, Detroit only had Brandon Powell to rely on. While Powell finished the season with a promising performance against the Packers, it was against a beat-up Green Bay team and doesn’t mean much for his future.
As for Amendola, he has made a long career out of almost being exclusively a slot receiver. Per Justin Rogers of the Detroit news, Amendola plays in the slot 80 percent of the time, which is nearly identical to how the Lions used Tate.
According to @NextGenStats, Danny Amendola averaged 3.2 yards of separation per target in 2018— Pride of Detroit (@PrideOfDetroit) March 11, 2019
Golden Tate averaged 3.0.
Additionally, while Amendola’s touchdown numbers are scary low (three in the past two years), he could potentially serve as the Lions’ chain mover, again much like Tate. Per PFF’s Brett Whitefield, over the past three seasons Amendola has 69 total first downs or touchdowns from the slot position, good for 12th among all slot receivers with at least 85 targets.
Although the Lions have a new offensive coordinator in Darrell Bevell, they are still likely to go three-wide often, leaving Amendola with a significant role in 2019.
This is where the Lions are receiving some deserved criticism. While in the grand scheme of things, spending $4.5 million guaranteed on a slot receiver is frugal spending, it’s not exactly a lean contract for a 33-year-old receiver who will only be a stop-gap solution.
That being said, the Lions likely had to outbid the New England Patriots, who were interested in reuniting with the slot receiver.
There’s mutual interest between Danny Amendola and the Patriots, per sources. We’ll see if it amounts to a reunion or not, but the possibility exists.— Jeff Howe (@jeffphowe) March 11, 2019
It’s not great value for the Lions here, but these are the kind of deals they may have to make if they’re going to pry away talent from New England.
Also, I think the Lions were smart here not to get in a bidding war for one of the better slot receivers in free agency. We’ll see the kind of deals Adam Humphries and Golden Tate get in free agency, but my guess is it’ll be at least double—if not triple—what Amendola got. In my opinion, that wouldn’t be worth it.
Amendola hasn’t played a full season since, though he has only missed eight games in the past four seasons. Still, Amendola gets labeled as “injury prone” often because of how often he appears on the injury report. Last year, he was on the report three time (missed one game). In 2017, it was six times (missed one game). 2016, five times (missed four games).
As Amendola grows older, the injuries will only come more often. Given the guaranteed money, there is certainly a risk here, but the whole injury thing does seem a little overplayed here. The veteran receiver has played in over 10 games in seven straight seasons.
How it affects the future
Not much at all. This doesn’t take receiver off the table for the NFL Draft, as Amendola is very clearly a stop-gap signing. Detroit still needs to plan for the future at this position, and nabbing someone in the draft this year or next is a nice cost-effective way of doing it—rather than getting into a bidding war for someone like Tate.
Also, Amendola could provide nice guidance for a young guy like Brandon Powell, should the Lions have a lot of faith in the young receiver.
This is far from a sexy signing, considering Amendola has never had anywhere near the kind of production that Golden Tate had in Detroit, and on top of that, he’s 33 years old.
That being said, I like the strategy of not going big at the wide receiver position in free agency, because I think the pool of defensive talent is both better and more important to Detroit’s needs.
I wish they could’ve gotten Amendola for a little cheaper, but chances are they had to go a little over their budget to secure him over New England. I’m not thrilled about the signing, but I get it.
Overall grade: C+
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