New England Patriots Analysis: Steelers keep Emmanuel Sanders


The New England Patriots shrewdly offered a one-year deal worth $2.5 million for Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, and it must have been a difficult decision for the Steelers as to whether or not they should keep Sanders in Pittsburgh. After star quarterback Ben Roethlisberger lobbied a reported 50-50 Steelers front office to match the Patriots offer for Sanders, the Steelers decided to match the offer ahead of the midnight deadline.

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Sanders’s cap number is slated to go up after the Steelers decided to keep him, and I have a feeling the Steelers and Sanders will come to terms on a multi-year deal. That will reduce Sanders’s cap number, and Sanders is just 26-years-old with some good upside. After all, the New England Patriots were willing to part ways with a third-round pick for Emmanuel Sanders.

Many Steelers fans wanted the team to take the Pats third-round pick and not match Sanders’s offer, because they didn’t want the Steelers to run up against the cap (they had just $2 million in cap before matching the deal yesterday) and also wanted one of the best organizations at drafting to have an added third-round pick. I see the logic that these fans presented, because it is all about the money these days. However, the Steelers were wise to match the Patriots offer for Sanders, because the Steelers situation at wide receiver would have been very uncertain without him. Mike Wallace already unsurprisingly left for the Miami Dolphins, and safe tight end Heath Miller is coming off of an ACL tear. The only returning wide receiver would have been Antonio Brown, and they would have had Jerricho Cotchery as the top in-house replacement for Sanders as a No. 3 receiver (under the presumption that the Steelers would have drafted a No. 2 guy).

Yeah, it’s no wonder why Roethlisberger publicly called for Sanders, especially after losing his second-best receiver (yes, Brown is better) in Mike Wallace. He realized that Wallace had to go, but I’m sure he didn’t want to lose two of his top three wide receivers.

Meanwhile, the Patriots will come out empty-handed when it comes to the “bottom line”, but they actually came out winners in this by offering Sanders. Even though they didn’t get the inside-outside, versatile deep threat they wanted, the Pats did hurt the Steelers cap situation. I would expect them to target WR as their top need in the draft, with CB as their No. 2 priority.

By the way, here is an awesome comment that was posted on Pro Football Talk worth reading, “A starting WR for a 3rd rounder? Sure. A starter tendered for 1 year at $2.5 mil? Sure.”

“Scream ‘spygate’ all you want, but I for one give the Patriots all the kudos in the world for being mercenary, cold-blooded SOB’s who play the game of football like it was a shooting war instead. The Jake Ballard signing comes to mind.”

Let’s just say several teams- including the Steelers- saw the Patriots move to give Sanders just one-year on the offer sheet an unsavory move, because most teams give the courtesy of offering the long-term deal to the RFA at first glance instead of having a long-term deal ready under-the-table (that’s speculating, though, that the Pats did indeed have a multi-year deal ready- which they probably did). The Steelers were forced to pay that $2.5 million up-front, but the comment above hits it home. The Patriots don’t really care what you think, what the unwritten rules say, or what other execs view as wrong. The Pats care about the bottom line, and they run their organization like a cutthroat business- I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again. They won’t make a big stink if a team does this to them as well in the future, because they realize that it’s fair game if it isn’t illegal.

You can follow Joe Soriano on Twitter @SorianoJoe.