New England Patriots Analysis: Breaking down Emmanuel Sanders offer


The New England Patriots submitted an offer for Pittsburgh Steelers 26-year-old wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, so they are willing to part ways with a third-round pick to nab the vertical threat. Sanders would fit Greg Bedard’s hybridization theory, because he brings versatility to the wide receiver position. With the Steelers, Sanders showed that he can make an impact in the slot and outside, and I think he would be a great fit for a Patriots wide receiver corps that could really use somebody who can stretch the field.

Nov 4, 2012; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders (88) prior to the game against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim O

The Patriots have made a one-year offer for $2.5 million to Emmanuel Sanders, and the Steelers have until Monday to match it. If they really want the SMU product, then they can easily match that offer. However, it is important to note that the Pats are almost certainly offering only one year just to make it harder for the Steelers to match the deal. They aren’t going to part ways with a third-rounder for just one year of Sanders, and giving Sanders just one-year would be stiffing him a little bit.

It’s much harder for the Steelers to match a one-year deal than a multi-year deal, because a multi-year deal would be a back-loaded contract. The Steelers have just $2.0 million in cap space, so it is going to be more difficult for them to come to terms with matching a $2.5 million deal up front.

Now here’s where the Patriots made one of those jerk-ish free agent moves to screw over another team, because this is a business where unwritten rules (like signing Jake Ballard from the New York Giants) are meant to be broken. According to Jason Cole of Yahoo! Sports, this might be the first proposed one-year deal in restricted free agent history. Why? Well, because giving an RFA just one year is frowned upon in league circles, and that’s largely due to the reason stated above; it’s harder for a team like the Steelers to match a one-year deal.

As I’ve been saying for the past month, if the Patriots really want Sanders then they will structure the deal so that the Steelers will have an extremely difficult decision to make with regards to matching Sanders. I guess Bill Belichick decided the best weapon in his arsenal was a one-year deal, which is sort of a dirty move, but it’s not illegal or anything. Alright fine, it is a dirty move. Satisfied? But sometimes, you have to run your business with that kind of bottom-line mentality.

Cole’s article is well-worth the read, so bang the link above and read what an AFC exec has to say about what the Pats are doing. Cole wonders if the Pats already have a long-term deal in place with Emmanuel Sanders, and I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that this is the case. The Patriots aren’t going to give up a third-rounder for one-year of Sanders, because that is definitely not worth the price of admission. But multiple years of Sanders and the chance to develop a versatile, speed demon? Now that’s worth it. It’s incredible to think that he has 4.4 long speed, averages 14.2 yards per reception, and yet most of his production in Pittsburgh came in the slot.

Adam Schefter and Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette believe that the Pittsburgh Steelers are more than willing to let Emmanuel Sanders walk, because they would want the third-round pick and the cap relief (again, just $2.0 million). Bouchette believes that if the Steelers really did want to keep Sanders, then they would have just tendered him with a first or second-round selection, instead of his original, third-round tender. Maybe they did that to save money (higher tender obviously equals more money), because the Steelers did lose Mike Wallace and have tight end Heath Miller coming off of an ACL tear. If they lose Sanders, there goes their second-best tenured receiver.

I think the Steelers are going to strongly consider tendering Sanders and keeping him in Pittsburgh, but I just have a feeling they’ll say “no” and take the pick. $2.5 million up-front for a team with $500,000 less than that in cap space, and the Steelers could have their eyes set on a guy like Stedman Bailey (if he falls later in the third round of the draft) to develop.

You can follow Joe Soriano on Twitter @SorianoJoe.