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The NFL's marketing department tells us that Football is Family. With Danny Amendola and the Patriots, that certainly seems to be the case.

When the Patriots approach Amendola about taking a significant pay cut, he rips up his contract and agrees to give back several million dollars. He even thanks the Patriots for the opportunity to do so.

"It's an honor to play for this franchise and with this group of guys," Amendola said in a statement last week after accepting his second pay cut in as many offseasons. "We have one goal — to win another championship — and that's all we care about."


Amendola took quite the cut to remain a Patriot for the 2016 season. Instead of making between $5 million and $6 million, Amendola agreed to a new contract Friday that will guarantee him $1.35 million, with the chance to make up to $250,000 more if he plays in at least 10 games.

Not many of us would call it an "honor" to get our pay cut by almost 75 percent, but that's the position Amendola and hundreds of other NFL players are facing. The NFL is the only major professional sport that doesn't require fully-guaranteed contracts, so the teams hold all the cards. The minute your production doesn't match your contract, the teams "correct the market," which usually means you are released.

Amendola took a pay cut last year, too. His original contract called for him to make $5 million, and he took in about $2.7 million. This year's cut was even more drastic. The Patriots gave him the same $1.25 million base salary as last year, but chopped his signing bonus from $500,000 to $100,000, chopped his per-game roster bonus in half, and took away his $500,000 in incentives.

But from Amendola's perspective, hey, at least he's still here. The Patriots simply cut receiver Brandon LaFell instead of paying him $2.4 million.


Taking that almost 75 percent pay cut has to sting Amendola's pride, but he likes the team and the culture, still gets to catch passes from Tom Brady, and gets to play on a big national platform, with a chance every year to reach the Super Bowl. Amendola would be a relative nobody if he still played for the Rams or Vikings, but with Brady and the Patriots, he maintains celebrity status.

Not to mention, Amendola probably wouldn't have done that much better had he accepted his outright release and taken his chances as an unrestricted free agent. When you compare his production in three years in New England with the contract he signed — five years, $31 million in 2013 to replace Wes Welker — you have to consider him a bust.

There's not much of a market for a 30-year-old slot receiver who scored six touchdowns in three seasons, is constantly battling injuries (although he has played in 42 of 48 games with New England), and was overtaken by Julian Edelman for the "Welker role" in the offense.

Even if Amendola could have gotten a little more money as a free agent, the Patriots offer a much better opportunity for him to build his persona for life off the field and after football.

The move was predictable by the Patriots, who are as smart and cutthroat with the salary cap as any team in the league. Amendola was the team's No. 3 receiver but No. 1 in money, set to earn more and have a higher cap number than Edelman and Chris Hogan. Now Amendola is No. 3 in cash and cap, where he belongs based on his production.


And keeping Amendola was better than just releasing him. The Patriots are in win-now mode, and Amendola has earned Brady's trust, catching 65 passes last year. Better to keep Amendola around as a backup for Edelman and an occasional punt returner than to simply release him. Amendola is still better than Keshawn Martin, Aaron Dobson, and most of the other options on the Patriots' depth chart.

Amendola's restructure saves the Patriots as much as $4.4 million in cash and $3.9 million in salary-cap space, which should be used to redo Edelman's contract and give him a well-deserved pay raise.

This is now the point of the column where Patriots fans start yelling at me about stirring up trouble with the Patriots. Edelman (and Rob Gronkowski) have contracts, they should honor them, blah blah blah.

Amendola is the perfect example for why Edelman and Gronkowski should ask for raises this offseason. Honoring a contract is a one-way street in the NFL. A team won't hesitate to squeeze a player out of millions the minute it has the leverage to do so.

So superstars like Edelman and Gronkowski, two of the three most important players on the Patriots roster and guys who put their bodies on the line every Sunday, should maximize their earning potential and squeeze every dollar they can while they can out of these NFL teams — who, by the way, are raking in cash in today's $12 billion NFL.


Call it the Darrelle Revis Principle: If teams can rip up contracts from year to year, players with leverage should do the same.

The top receivers in the NFL, like Demaryius Thomas and Dez Bryant, make $14 million per year. Edelman is not at their level, but he was on pace for 100-plus catches, 1,000-plus yards, and double-digit touchdowns last year before he broke his foot in the ninth game. He's making $3.5 million this year, or one-quarter of what Thomas and Bryant make. He's also making less than free agent signee Hogan, who got $5.5 million in a front-loaded deal to convince him to sign with the Patriots.

Gronkowski is set to make $9 million this year and $5 million next year. That's an average of $7 million per season, or half of what the top receivers make. Gronkowski deserves to be paid as much as the top receivers — maybe even more so, given how much he contributes in the run game.

But it won't take top dollar to keep Edelman and Gronkowski happy (for the record, Edelman has not made a peep about his contract, while Gronkowski sent out one lighthearted-but-telling tweet about taking a "pay cut" with his current deal).

The Patriots should throw them each a little bone to show how much they are appreciated — a couple million extra for Edelman, a couple million extra for Gronk. Make Edelman the highest-paid receiver on the team, which he deserves to be.


Because one day, both of those players will be just like Amendola — on the books for a lot more money than they're worth, and facing a pay cut or outright release, which they will have no choice but to take.

It's how family works in the NFL.

Ben Volin can be reached at ben.volin@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @BenVolin.