Amendola continues to defy the odds, but it appears he may be ready for the next phase in his life.
Today, we kick off our offseason-long 2020 Detroit Lions roster review series. In this set of articles, we will review the performance of players who finished on the Lions’ roster in 2020 and what it may mean for the future.
We start, as always, with the upcoming free agents. A decision on these players’ fates will be decided in the upcoming months, and the incoming general manager will have little time to evaluate before having to make a decision, but at least one of those players may have already made that decision for the Lions: wide receiver Danny Amendola.
Expectations heading into 2020
After a successful 2019 season in which Amendola was just a few catches away from setting career highs, the veteran receiver signed a one-year deal to stay with Matt Patricia and company.
The wide receiver group looked like it was heading for some healthy competition going into 2020. Marvin Hall was back and expected to see an expanded role after being Detroit’s big-play threat in 2019. Jamal Agnew had made a position change, directly threatening Amendola’s role as the slot receiver. Throw in rookie Quintez Cephus, and it wasn’t exactly clear how Detroit would utilize all of these weapons.
However, Amendola entered the season as the de facto slot receiver. There was just reason to believe his role may decrease a bit as the Lions try to get younger at the position.
Actual role in 2020
2020 stats: 14 games (5 starts) — 46 catches, 602 yards, 0 TDs
PFF grade: 74.9 (41st of 129 qualifying wide receivers)
Turns out Agnew (13 catches, 89 yards) wasn’t much competition in the slot. And while Amendola saw 28 fewer targets than he did in 2019 (97 to 69), his production hardly changed at all. His yardage only dropped from 678 to 602.
At 35 years old, Amendola continues to defy the odds. Many believed signing him to the Lions in 2019 was a waste of money in the first place. However, the truth is Amendola has been a steady set of hands and a reliable chain-mover. He won’t make big plays for you, but if you need 5 yards on third-and-4, he’s your guy. His athleticism may not be what it used to be, but he’s savvy and technically sound enough to still get by.
Outlook for 2021
Contract status: Unrestricted free agent
Amendola proved he still has something left in the tank. In fact, his combined yardage of 1,280 in the past two years in Detroit is the highest total of his career in consecutive seasons with one team. He’s also the ideal locker room example when it comes to his work ethic and devotion to the craft.
The Lions are simply going to be looking for bodies at the wide receiver position this offseason, as only Quintez Cephus and Geronimo Allison are currently under contract, with also Victor Bolden and Tom Kennedy signing future contract last week. The fate of Marvin Jones Jr. and Kenny Golladay loom large.
Amendola’s leadership would be valuable to what will likely be a young receiver group, but there’s a big elephant in the room: his potential retirement. The Lions released a “Sights and Sounds” video from their Week 17 finale against the Vikings , and one of the final images of the video was this:
The symbolism isn’t hard to see. That’s Danny Amendola literally looking at cleats that are hung up. Amendola hasn’t addressed retirement publicly yet, but it’s hard to imagine interpreting this in any other way.
Even if Amendola doesn’t retire, it’s hard to see him coming back given that his relationship with Patricia likely played a big factor in him coming, and staying, in Detroit. So whether those hung-up cleats were to signify the end of his Lions career or the end of his NFL career, chances are slim he’ll be back in 2021.