A year ago, with Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders a part of the Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiving core, they dubbed themselves “The Young Money Crew.”
As things turned out, they were more like “The Loose Change Bunch.”
With Wallace already in Miami, Brown coming off of a disappointing season and Sanders now signing an offer sheet with the New England Patriots, many feel that the Steelers should do whatever it takes to match the offer to Sanders.
However that’s not the case as they should allow him to walk.
First comes the obvious fact and that’s the Steelers have salary cap issues. They currently sit only $1.9 million under the cap and the Patriots offer sheet was for $2.5 million. Sure some more maneuvering can be done to retain Sanders, but the Steelers have other holes to fill and should focus on freeing up more money for the draft. As it stands now, only three teams in the league have less cap space than the Steelers do at this point.
Even though ESPN’s Ed Werder has reported that the Steelers will match the offer, I don’t believe it’s a good idea.
Expect Steelers to match Patriots offer sheet and retain WR Emmanual Sanders. He’s vital after loss of Mike Wallace and offer easy to match
— Ed Werder (@Edwerderespn) April 10, 2013
Judging solely by performance, Sanders has done nothing to make anyone believe he’s capable of producing at a higher level in the Steelers’ offense. He’s a guy who is not a great route runner and even though he has the wheels to make things happen when he gets the ball, he’s entering a world where he is going to get more paid attention to him and I don’t know if he is talented enough to excel.
Sanders, in 40 career games played, has a total of 94 receptions for 1,290 yards and has as many career 100-yard receiving games as running back Isaac Redman (one).
Sure his absence leaves an even bigger void in terms of playmakers, but I’d rather have the third round pick and the extra cap space right now than rolling the dice on Sanders.
If the Steelers were that interested in keeping Sanders, they would have placed a second round tender on him, which amounts to about $1 million more than the third-round tender they eventually placed on him. No one would have signed him if that were the case. They also could have freed more money up by restructuring contracts to make re-signing Sanders a priority.
That didn’t happen and it sends a message.
If the Steelers were willing to pay Sanders this much, they could have tendered him as a restricted free agent at a higher level. Instead, they gave Sanders an “original pick” tender worth just more than $1.3 million. The offer sheet that Sanders signed is for one year, but it has long-term implications.
The Patriots aren’t necessarily trying to make it impossible for the Steelers to match it financially. The Steelers could make the money work if they really wanted to, but New England is betting that the Steelers would prefer to take a third-round draft pick over keeping Sanders and they probably are right.
Even if the match the offer, it makes very little sense to do so if they can’t come to a long-term deal with him, something that’s not likely to happen.
If the Steelers aren’t confident that Sanders will be around past 2013, they’d surely rather have a third-round pick under their control for four years. New England, meanwhile, still could sign Sanders long-term in the upcoming months.
That’s something I would bank on as it makes no sense for the Patriots to give up a third-round pick for just one year of Sanders. It makes a lot of sense for the Patriots to sign Sanders to a one-year deal now, and then sign Sanders to a long-term extension at some point before the season. Truth be told, they probably already have the parameters for an extension in place.
The Steelers are in a tough spot. They can’t lose any more weapons, but probably have no confidence they can sign Sanders long-term.
That third-round pick looks pretty good at this point and now it looks as if the Steelers could be looking to add a couple of receivers and a running back early in the draft.
It may seem like starting over, but that strategy makes a lot more sense than tying up money long-term into Sanders.
The 2013 season could be a rough one for the Steelers and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, but Sanders won’t be missed long-term and if they draft well, the franchise will be better off for it.
The Steelers have until Sunday to make a decision on Sanders and many expect that decision to come right down to the wire.
To me this is a no-brainer as the only smart decision would be to allow Sanders to walk.