Earlier today, the New England Patriots signed wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders to a Restricted Free Agent offer sheet.
On paper, the move itself looks like an enormous blow to the wide-receiver-needy and salary cap-strapped Steelers.
Not only does Pittsburgh stand to lose their 4th leading receiver from the 2012 season, the departure of Sanders would leave Antonio Brown, Jerricho Cotchery, and Plaxico Burress as the Steelers’ #1, #2, and #3 options at the wide receiver position.
Negative vibes aside, I for one will not be overly upset if Manny departs for Foxborough. In fact, I believe that if Sanders does leave, it will not hurt the franchise as much as some might lead you to believe!
I am sure that some of you would like me to explain myself, so here are five reasons why I believe that the Steelers could benefit if Colbert & Co. allow Sanders to go to New England.
1. Extra 3rd Round pick
This reason is pretty self-explanatory. I for one believe that the rebuilding Steelers could stand to use any and all draft selections that they can acquire at the moment. New England would have to trade the 91st overall pick (3rd Round) to Pittsburgh if the Colbert & Co. are unable to ink him during the next five days. This in turn would help Pittsburgh’s brass to set themselves up well on Day 2 of the draft with one selection in Round 2, and two more in Round 3 to make some major moves and find some important pieces to their “rebuilding puzzle.”
2. Deep WR class in Rounds 2 & 3
Reason #1 leads right into reason #2 because the 2013 Draft Class is littered with mid-Round talent at the wide receiver position. Luckily for the Steelers, players like Stedman Bailey (West Virginia), Quinton Patton (Louisiana Tech), Aaron Dobson (Marshall), Ryan Swope (Texas A&M), Terrance Williams (Baylor), Da’Rick Rogers (Tennessee Tech), and Josh Boyce (Texas Christian) could potentially be available for the Steelers to take late in Round 2 and in Round 3 with one or more of the team’s three selections. Thus, the Steelers could draft Sanders’ replacement, and acquire the services of the player for a fraction of the cost.
3. New England almost bereft of draft choices
As I mentioned before, if the Steelers do not bring Sanders back, New England would be forced to forfeit their 3rd Round pick. If the Patriots surrender their 3rd Round pick, they will only be left with a total of 4 selections in this m0nth’s draft, including zero picks in Rounds 3, 4, 5, and 6! If Colbert & Co. want to hurt an A.F.C. foe while helping themselves in the process, it might make sense to call the Patriots on their current bluff.
4. Health & Fumbling Issues
Although losing Sanders could be a big blow to Pittsburgh’s offense, let’s take into account how the pass-catcher had issues staying healthy, and even holding onto the ball as a member of the Steelers. Not only did Sanders have issues with foot injuries during his career in Pittsburgh, he did not play 16 games in a regular season until the 2012 campaign. In addition to his foot problems, Manny had his own fair share of “butterfingers” moments. After he fumbled twice as a rookie in 2010, Sanders put the ball on the turf three times last season! While Manny has the potential to develop into an even more effective wide receiver, his issues with injuries and fumbles should not be overlooked.
5. Top Compensation Likely to Receive for Sanders
No offense to Sanders and what he could potentially do at the N.F.L.-level, but a 3rd Round pick is likely to be the best compensation that the Steelers could ever dream to receive for their pass-catcher. Even if the Steelers received a compensatory pick in 2015 for Sanders (assuming that the front office could not sign him long-term), it sure would probably not come close to a 3rd Round pick. Remember fans, the Steelers only received a 5th round compensatory pick for Nate Washington in 2010, and Washington put up better numbers in his final season with Pittsburgh (40 catches, 631 yards, 3 touchdowns) than Sanders has ever done in his three year career with the team.
I for one will not take a negative attitude towards whatever unfolds between Sanders, the Steelers, and the Patriots over the next five days. Is it a “kick to groin” to Pittsburgh’s offense if they lose their projected #2 pass-catcher two weeks before “Draft Weekend?” Heck yes. But one must also take into account that the franchise might not be able to (or might not even want to) retain Manny by the time the 2014 offseason begins.
As I stated before, unless Sanders sticks with the team and becomes Big Ben’s #1 target, there is no way that the team will receive anything close to a 3rd Round compensatory pick for his services if he leaves next spring. Plus, since the team is sure to be in “cap hell” for the next few seasons, some team could easily offer Sanders more money to leave Pittsburgh too.
Thus, I for one am not as worried as most are at the moment. In fact, I am simply intrigued to see exactly what transpires over the next month.
Readers: Should the Steelers let Sanders walk? Will it be worth it? Why or why not?