The New England Patriots signed restricted free agent wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders to an offer sheet on Wednesday forcing the Steelers into a pretty difficult to decision — either match the one-year offer or lose a second starting receiver within a month (Mike Wallace signed with the Dolphins on the first day of free agency.)
It is unknown what the terms of the offer were, but knowing that Sanders signed off on a one-year deal, it is likely a hefty pay raise from his 1-year, $1.3 million original-round tender the Steelers offered last month. The Steelers are only $2 million under the salary cap which would force them to make some move if they do choose to sign Sanders.
The Steelers have until Sunday to match the offer.
To me, it would be a mistake for the Steelers to match the Patriots’ offer especially since it is only a one-year deal. Sanders is going to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year anyway and there is no guarantee he will be back so why not assure yourself of some sort of return?
To be able to get compensation of New England’s third-round pick in this year’s draft coupled with the addition of $1.3 million in immediate salary cap space is just too good of a deal for a receiver who averages less than three catches per game over his career.
Sure, there will there be some short-term misery if Sanders goes especially when you consider Wallace left and tight end Heath Miller may or may not be ready for the start of the season because of knee surgery near the end of last year.
However, Jerricho Cotchery is still a very capable receiver who was grossly underutilized last year and would pair nicely with Antonio Brown. Plaxico Burress is serviceable and the team was high on David Gilreath a season ago.
And don’t forget that if Sanders does go, it instantly puts West Virginia receiver Tavon Austin back in the mix with the 17th overall pick, which, by all accounts, might be able to be a starter instantly.
If the offer sheet was for more than one year, then it would change the entire dynamics of whether or not to match. But a one-year offer that could reach $4 million is just crazy to even consider … unless a long-term extension is also somehow intertwined with it that can be finalized over the summer.
We aren’t talking about Lynn Swann or Hines Ward here. We are talking about a guy with five career touchdowns and was really nondescript in his first chance as extended playing time last year. Sanders isn’t going to be determining factor if the Steelers win a Super Bowl or not this year. The Steelers aren’t going to overvalue him like the Patriots seem to have already done.
Let him go. It’s been proven that there can be replacements in the draft i.e. Wallace in the third and Brown in the sixth.