Today the Patriots resigned receiver Julian Edelman to a one year deal and also signed receiver Emmanuel Sanders to a one year offer sheet. However Sanders isn’t officially on the Patriots roster, as his former team the Steelers, have five days to match the Pats offer. If they don’t, then the Patriots get Sanders and have to give up their third round draft choice to Pittsburgh. I have been pulling for the Pats to sign Sanders every since it was reported that he had worked out for them early in the free agency period, and now that they have signed him to the offer sheet, it is just a waiting game with the Steelers to see if he will in fact play for the Patriots next season.
Edelman and Sanders are both very similar football players. They are versatile guys that can play inside and outside. They both have good return skills, and both of them have a pretty small frame. However, I think Sanders is a much better receiver than Edelman. The main thing that sticks out in my mind is durability. In Edelman’s four years in the NFL, he has missed 15 games. In Sanders’ three years in the NFL he has missed eight games. That may not seem like a big difference, but it really is in NFL terms. Basically, Edelman has been in the NFL for a full year longer than Sanders has, and he only has played in eight more ball games. Durability is one of the most underrated aspects of a receiver and that is one of the reasons why Wes Welker was so successful with New England. He rarely missed a game, and that could be a problem with Edelman.
The other main reason I like Sanders over Edelman, is the fact that he has vertical threat potential. In 2012 he finished with 44 catches for a total of 626 yards to go along with 1 touchdown. Those numbers may not seem like much, but I think that they are very impressive when you consider the fact that he was playing with Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown. When you can produce those type of numbers when playing with two of the top 10 receivers in the league, I really believe that you are a extremely talented player. Now, I have seen quite a few times today on twitter, various people saying that Sanders is just a slot guy like Danny Amendola is. By the numbers, people that say this are actually correct. According to Pro Football Focus last season 67% of Sanders snaps came when he was in the slot. However, once again he was playing with Wallace and Brown on his team, and both of those guys are not slot receivers. He really just got stuck in the slot because of the players in front of him. When watching highlights of Sanders it is obvious that he has the speed to play on the outside and take the top off of a defense, and that is exactly what the Pats need from him.
According to numerous reports the offer sheet that Sanders signed is going to be for one year and around three or four million dollars. This is a pretty big gamble for New England as they could lose their third round draft choice this year and may have nothing to show for it a year from now. Not only that, but three to four million for one season is very pricey. But in my opinion I think this is worth the gamble because of the impact Sanders can have on the Patriots, and I think that at some point they will try and negotiate a longer term deal with Sanders.
As for Edelman, I am not saying that he is a scrub and shouldn’t have been resigned. In fact I am actually glad he was resigned because of his punt return ability. In terms of punt return skills I would definitely take Edelman over Sanders. Edelman made a lot of plays on special teams last year and hopefully he will be able to do that again in 2013. However as a receiver, I think that Edelman is far below Sanders. He lacks the speed that Sanders has, and after the catch Sanders is better as well, which is saying something because Edelman is very good after he catches the ball. You really could think of Edelman as a poor man’s Emmanuel Sanders. There is no doubt that Edelman has skills as a receiver but I really think that Sanders is just a better player.
If the Pats are able to obtain Sanders then that opens up a ton of different options for the Patriots offense in 2013. If Gronk is healthy then the Pats would have Gronk, Amendola, Hernandez, and Sanders as their top four options. That will be very hard to guard for opposing teams. They can line Sanders up on the inside or the outside, and the same goes for Hernandez. I think that the Pats will have enough talent to beat guys one on one, but at the same time I don’t think they will have to do that most of the time. They are going to be able to create so much matchup problems between these four guys that there will always be at least one matchup that Brady can pick apart all day long. You can throw in Ridley and that solid running game, and if the Pats can get some chemistry down with the new receivers, then I don’t see why this team can’t have the top offense once again next season.