New England Patriots wise to wait for Emmanuel Sanders deadline


Earlier this month, the New England Patriots brought in Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders for a workout, and Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that the Patriots had signed Sanders to an offer sheet. However, various reports- including one from Adam Schefter- refuted the news that the Patriots had signed the restricted free agent to an offer sheet.

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The Patriots could still very well sign Emmanuel Sanders to an offer sheet, but it was certainly wise for them not to jump the gun and put pen to paper early on. Sanders is likely worth the third-round price tag, and it is a crutch argument to state that, “Oh, the Pats have less draft picks this year, therefore they should value each pick more and not acquire Sanders.” Think of Sanders as a player with a lot of potential (which is true), and then treat him as a more experienced draft pick. The Steelers placed an original-round tender on Sanders, which means Sanders had the value of a third-rounder coming out of college. After a couple of good seasons in Pittsburgh, I think it is pretty clear that Sanders is worth more than a third-round pick, and the value of a draft choice should not be inflated based on the scarcity of the number of picks a team has in that given year. I mean, do you really think a guy like Stedman Bailey will end up being better than Sanders? Or any third-round wideout for that matter?

Wide receiver is a need for the New England Patriots, and it is one of the team’s three biggest needs along with cornerback and defensive tackle. The Patriots especially need a wide receiver who can stretch the field, and that’s definitely something Sanders can provide. He is also versatile enough to play in the middle-of-the-field, and he is not a one-trick pony. Sanders got lost in the shuffle behind stars Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown, and Wallace’s departure will mean that the Steelers want to keep Sanders that much more.

However, the Steelers have huge cap issues, and that’s what makes Sanders an intriguing option for the Patriots to sign on an offer sheet. If the Pats truly want Sanders, then they can pretty much guarantee that Sanders will come back by balancing out his deal so that the Steelers won’t have enough cap space to do it.

Now why is it smart for the Patriots to wait? The deadline to sign Emmanuel Sanders to an offer sheet is the 19th of April, and they could really put the Steelers out of range. Because by then, the Steelers will be pressed-for-time, might not have a better idea of how to manage their cap, and the clear reason at the top is the fact that they could make moves up to that point in time that will push Sanders’s price tag out of their range. I’m not saying Sanders is going to be pricy, but I am saying that the Steelers have cap issues and waiting closer to the deadline to offer Sanders means that the Steelers are more likely to have made moves by then.

As the Patriots wait, the Steelers cap space will be further limited to sign a deal, and it is also best not to rush things. This gives the Patriots more time to examine the situation and watch how the next few weeks affect the Steelers cap space. The Pats are going to want to put themselves in the best position to give Sanders a cheaper deal, and that is best done by waiting.

You can follow Joe Soriano on Twitter @SorianoJoe.