We’ve come to our final free agent for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Emmanuel Sanders tested the waters slightly last offseason as a restricted free agent but will become an unrestricted free agent on March 11th.
Emmanuel Sanders was drafted by the Steelers in the third round of the 2010 NFL Draft out of SMU. In college he played alongside his future Steelers teammate, Kelvin Beachum. Sanders was used pretty sparingly early on as he was fairly low on the WR depth chart but has accumulated a respectable 2,030 receiving yards with a 12.6 average and 11 touchdowns in his four-year NFL career so far.
Last year the New England Patriots signed Sanders to a one-year $2.5 million dollar contract as a restricted free agent. The Steelers would have gotten an additional 3rd round draft pick as compensation but opted to retain Sanders instead and matched the Patriots’ offer. In return, Sanders started opposite Antonio Brown as the No. 2 wide receiver on the team and put up career-highs in receptions, yards, and touchdowns. Steelers GM Kevin Colbert has already acknowledged that Sanders will be able to test free agency and won’t necessarily be one of the free agents the Steelers try to re-sign before March 11th.
“Emmanuel came back and had a nice year for us, and we were happy to have him, and where he goes in free agency and what his market is we don’t know at this point, but he certainly performed for us last year, and we’ll see where it is in the future.” – Kevin Colbert
With the fact that Sanders is definitely going to draw interest from other teams with much more spending money than the Steelers plus Markus Wheaton all ready to hopefully have an injury-free second year this might be the end of the road for Sanders in Pittsburgh. Doesn’t mean he doesn’t necessarily want to stay here or that the Steelers wouldn’t want him back, it’s just an instance of things not working out sometimes. The Steelers most likely won’t be able or willing to pay the contract Sanders would be looking for, in which case they’re already in good position to replace Sanders with Wheaton and add additional wide receivers in the draft.
What are your thoughts, Steeler Nation? Do you think this is the end of the road for Emmanuel Sanders in Pittsburgh?