— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) April 10, 2013
On Wednesday, the Patriots signed Steelers’ restricted free agent Emmanuel Sanders to an offer sheet. The Steelers officially had 5 days to match the Patriots’ offer of 2.5 million starting from Wednesday. Today marks the fourth day that the Steelers could decide to match the Patriots’ offer sheet.
If the Steelers decide not to match the Patriots’ offer and let Emmanuel Sanders go, they will receive a third round draft pick from the Patriots as their restricted tender. If the Steelers decide to match the offer, they can still agree to a long term deal. The Patriots can also give him a long term deal after his signing, as long as the cap number is at or above his original cap hit.
The Patriots are extremely lacking at the wide receiver position. Last season, they lacked a true deep threat, and had Wes Welker, and Brandon Lloyd at the receiver position along with Aaron Hernandez, Rob Gronkowski, Shane Vereen, and Danny Woodhead also catching passes from Tom Brady. This season, the Patriots will only have 3 of the above listed players, Aaron Hernandez, Rob Gronkowski, and Shane Vereen, all of which are prone to injury.
Now, the Patriots do not have a wide receiver that caught a pass for them in the 2012 season. They have brought in new receivers such as Danny Amendola, Donald Jones, and Michael Jenkins. Danny Amendola is widely believed to be the next Wes Welker, but the main issue with him is his durability. He has yet to play all 16 games in a single season. Donald Jones is an effective special teams player who has yet to prove himself. He has had poor production over the past few years with the Buffalo Bills. Michael Jenkins is a 30 year old receiver who is more of a skill, after-the-catch type receiver. Even though any three of these options could be productive for the Pats, the team still lacks the deep threat that they had with Randy Moss.
Emmanuel Sanders was widely believed to be the replacement for Mike Wallace once he left for Miami. With his blazing fast speed and catching ability, he could very well be the deep threat the Patriots have been missing. He has mainly been used over the middle during his time with the Steelers, but this is because Pittsburg had a lot much talent at the receiver position with Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown. Sanders could be used as a Brandon Lloyd type receiver. He would fit the role much better than Brandon Lloyd because of his speed, which could create a nightmare for defenses when combined with Tom Brady’s passing skills.
From the Steelers perspective, their receiving corps is seriously lacking with Mike Wallace gone. This brings more urgency than ever to sign back Emmanuel Sanders, as they don’t want to rely on Plaxico Burress as their number two receiver. Unfortunately for them, the Steelers are also seriously lacking in cap space. Ben Roethlisberger can plead all he wants to Mike Tomlin to match the Patriots’ offer, but until they solve the cap problem, they wouldn’t have the ability to sign Sanders back. The Steelers have $2 million left in cap space, and they need money for their potential signing with Ahmad Bradshaw and their drafted players. This could come down to the wire, and it will judge how much the Steelers really value Sanders at compared to the rest of their needs.
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