As I stated yesterday in my original post only one player in the last four years has been given an offer sheet and not been signed back to his original team and with the way things are shaping up right now with Sanders and the Patriots that might be two.
Yesterday there was some news sent out later in the day that said that the Patriots did indeed offer Sanders an offer sheet:
Confirmed: Sanders has an offer sheet from the #Patriots, meetings concluded for the day
— Erika Leigh (@_ErikaLeigh) March 15, 2013
That was after I said I would be pretty shocked if an offer sheet was given, but it happens.
Then this morning we got this nugget:
Patriots still mulling whether to sign Steelers WR Emmanuel Sanders to an offer sheet. So far, no decision made and no offer sheet signed.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 16, 2013
Well, that makes thins a little more interesting.
I got to think about this whole thing last night and this morning and whether I would match if Sanders does get an offer sheet. When it comes down to it I don't think I would match if I was the Steelers. Not saying that the Steelers are set at the receiver position, because they most certainly are not, but in the big picture Sanders would be worth the compensation.
If the Patriots would offer and the Steelers wouldn't match that would leave them with Antonio Brown, Jerricho Cotchery, Plaxico Burress, David Gilreath, Derek Moye, Bert Reed, and Kashif Moore as the only receivers on the roster. While Brown serves as a pretty good number two receiver there isn't much there after Cotchery. Burress is on the way tail end of his career and Gilreath and Moye have very small experience with the team. That isn't a lot but that shouldn't keep the Steelers from getting a steal in this sort of trade type of deal. I would venture to guess that no team out there would offer the Steelers a third round draft pick, in a very deep draft, for an average number three receiver that has had injury problems throughout his career.
Last year Sanders set career highs with catches (44) and yards (626) but also had a big problem with fumbling (three) and had his fair share of drops in some big situations. He did play in all 16 games in 2012 but was only able to suit up for 11 in 2011 and 13 in 2010 where his production combined in 2010 and 2011 was 50 catches. I am not saying that Sanders isn't valuable, because he is as a very athletic receiver in the Todd Haley offense, but as a number three receiver I think some might be overvaluing him and if it would be I would take the third round draft pick if he was signed to an offer sheet.
The Steelers could go to the draft and get a receiver or they could go to free agency to grab someone that could be similar to Sanders. The Steelers already have talked to Steve Breaston who has played with Haley before and has caught 45 or more passes in four of the last five years. Sanders isn't as irreplaceable as many think and if Breaston is still interested and the Patriots give an offer there is a solid reason to let him walk. Sure he is only 26 but lets not pretend like number three receivers are some sort of irreplaceable player.
Right now the Steelers hold the 17, 48, 79, and 112th draft pick in the first four rounds. If the Patriots were to sign Sanders they would also hold the 91st draft pick giving them four picks in the top 100. This might change the draft strategy for the team as they would probably need to go for a receiver pretty high in the draft but all things told I still think the Steelers should target Texas safety Kenny Vaccaro but if he isn't there then there are receiving options in Tavon Austin, Keenan Allen, and Cordarrelle Patterson. The Steelers could also pounce defensive end Jarvis Jones if he falls or nab top interior lineman Jonathan Cooper or Chance Warmack. There are a lot of options for the Steelers and they could go one of any ways but with an extra third round pick there is much more possibility of trying to use that pick to trade for an extra second round pick or to move up in the second round to grab someone they really want.
Santonio Holmes was traded by the Steelers to the Jets for a fifth round pick in the 2010 offseason and while he had a little more baggage with him with the drug problems but he was a number one/number two receiver. He was also on a contract year and it is hard to draw to comparisons between Sanders and Holmes but from just a talent standpoint Holmes trumps Sanders and the Steelers could have a chance to get a third from Sanders when they only could get a fifth from Holmes. Again, I don't think this is an apples-to-apples comparison but I more wanted to note how hard it is to get a return from a trade.
I still don't think that the Patriots are going to give an offer sheet to Sanders but if they do I think it would be wise of the Steelers to let Sanders go to New England. With Tom Brady Sanders might be able to play a huge role in that offense and if he stays healthy he could be a nice receiver but truth be told having him stay healthy and contribute in a big way is a lot to as after three pretty average years. It does take longer for receivers to develop but a third round pick for a number three receiver is a pretty good deal for me and I would take that.
UPDATE (3/17/13): Yesterday after this went up the Patriots released Brandon Lloyd so you can put him on the list of players the Steelers could sign if the Pats give Sanders an offer sheet. While Lloyd is older he is better than Sanders and if they could get a third rounder and sign someone like Lloyd for Sanders that would be an unbelievable coup for the Steelers.