It’s decision time for the Pittsburgh Steelers. The New England Patriots today officially signed WR Emmanuel Sanders to a 1 year offer sheet for $2.5 million.
The Steelers have until Sunday to match or receive the Patriots 2013 third round pick, 91st overall, as compensation.
The decision the Steelers make won’t be based on money as Sanders signed offer sheet is only $1.2 million more than the Steelers third round tender of $1.3 million they placed on him. Previous speculation and reports had Sanders offer sheet in the $4 million range.
The Steelers decision on whether to match or not will come down to whether the Steelers see Sanders, an unrestricted free agent in 2014, as a long-term player and a player they envision signing beyond this season. That’s what this comes down to.
Sanders last season caught a career high 44 receptions for 626 yards and 1 touchdown as the Steelers No. 3 receiver behind Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown, and while he’s far from a great receiver, there’s no denying losing Sanders would be an immediate loss for the Steelers this season, an offense that has already lost Mike Wallace and Rashard Mendenhall, and likely won’t have tight end Heath Miller at full strength who is recovering from a torn ACL.
For a team that has franchise quarterback behind center, the Steelers are putting less and less weapons around Ben Roethlisberger who’s no longer a spring chicken at age 31. With the wear and tear Roethlisberger takes on a year by year basis, the Steelers can’t take for granted that Roethlisberger has five to six great years left in him.
On paper especially if the Steelers don’t match the Patriots offer sheet for Sanders, the Steelers will arguably have their worst group of receivers around Roethlisberger in his career as you can’t count on rookie receivers to have an immediate impact. When looking at the weapons around Roethlisberger, let’s not forget, the team still doesn’t have anything resembling a No. 1 running back and it’s no sure thing they get one for this season in the draft.
That said when looking at the long-term picture, good arguments are there for the Steelers to take the late third round pick as this is a deep draft and you get a player you can control for four years at a cheap price. Receivers are also the easiest position to replace, at least that’s the Steelers view, and by letting Sanders walk, the Steelers would save some cap space they could use on let’s say Giants RB Ahmad Bradshaw.
However, when looking strictly at 2013, losing Emmanuel Sanders would be a blow as there are a lot of unknown’s of whether the Steelers can replace Sanders in the draft and with the Steelers trying to sign players for pennies this off-season, there’s no guarantees they turn the cap space they would save by letting Sanders go into any players who will make a true impact.