December 23, 2012; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders (88) reacts after making pass reception for a first down against the Cincinnati Bengals during the third quarter at Heinz Field. The Cincinnati Bengals won 13-10. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
This is a bit of sad news for Patriots Nation this evening as the Steelers decided to match the offer on Emmanuel Sanders which will keep him in Pittsburgh. Lots of fans were mixed on the Patriots making a move on Sanders, but no need to worry for those naysayers as they won’t lose their third round pick anymore. Ben Roethlisberger definitely wasn’t going to be too pleased if they had lost another wide receiver this off-season. This is a solid move by the Steelers, for the moment.
With a one-year, $2.5 million deal, Sanders is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent in March 2014. And with the Steelers unlikely to use the franchise tag (after all, they didn’t use it to keep Mike Wallace around), Sanders will head to market barring a long-term deal, which it is unknown if that will occur at the moment. The Steelers had a little more than $1.9 million in salary-cap space this weekend, so they’re right up against the cap. They’ll have to clear room to sign their draft picks in the coming months. Safety Troy Polamalu’s contract might be restructured to help make that happen. If Sanders makes it to the open market, the Patriots likely will be given the first crack at signing him, due to he fact that the Pats helped him get a $1.2 million raise for 2013. The Steelers, in turn, will have nothing if Sanders leaves.
Had the Patriots, possibly put a little more money into the offer, maybe the Steelers would have backed off due to money issues which is why a lot of people thought they wouldn’t match the Patriots offer. The Patriots have a franchise low five draft picks and will be forced to draft a wide receiver in the early rounds and may also be forced to possibly bring back Brandon Lloyd, now that Sanders is removed from the equation.