The New England Patriots are revamping their wide receiver corps, and the first change was the addition of Danny Amendola to replace Wes Welker. The second? The signing of former Buffalo Bills No. 3 wide receiver Donald Jones after Jones worked out with the Pats yesterday. And now, there could be a third move for the Patriots on the WR front, as Adam Schefter is reporting that the Pats are bringing in former Pittsburgh Steelers speedster Emmanuel Sanders in for a workout.
The Steelers would love to keep Sanders, but they have serious cap troubles and won’t be able to keep him if the Patriots are serious. A restricted free agent, Sanders was given an original round tender by the Steelers, which means that the Pats would have to part ways with a third-round pick if they want to sign Sanders (a third-rounder out of SMU in 2010).
In my opinion, it is worth it for the Patriots to sign Sanders to an offer sheet and give up a third-round pick. First of all, is there a wide receiver in the third round who can be better than Sanders? Maybe. Is it likely? No. Stedman Bailey is a solid wideout, but he reportedly wants to play in the slot and is the only truly good value to be had at the position in the third-round.
The Patriots still need a playmaking wide receiver, because Jones is more of a possession guy. In this piece, I examine Jones following the signing and also wonder if he could replace Brandon Lloyd (a move that seems more likely now that Sanders is being worked out).
Emmanuel Sanders can definitely be that playmaker, and people who think Jones can be that guy are misguided and need to take a look at his 10-11 yard per reception averages. Sanders, meanwhile, is a speed demon who averages a terrific 13-14 yards per reception each season. Last year, the 25-year-old caught 44 passes (more receptions than Jones, by the way) for 626 yards (14.1 yards per reception). In the Patriots offense as a guy to stretch the field, those numbers could rise, and Sanders would certainly be valuable for the Pats.
Imagine a young, extremely talented core of pass-catchers with Amendola in the slot, Jones and Sanders on the outside (the former as a possession guy, the latter stretching the field), and then the standout tight end trio in Aaron Hernandez, Rob Gronkowski, and Jake Ballard. Shane Vereen will also be a threat in the backfield, and things will be even better if Julian Edelman and Danny Woodhead are back in the fold.
Working out Sanders is simply a genius move made by the New England Patriots and Bill Belichick, and I think picking him up is a worthwhile move for the Pats to make.
You can follow Joe Soriano on Twitter @SorianoJoe.