The Pittsburgh Steelers ultimately decided that Emmanuel Sanders was indeed worth more than a third round pick and have matched their offer, according to Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
In doing so the Steelers are bucking conventional wisdom of both the press and, if reports are accurate, their front office. Dale Lolley reported that the Steelers front office was prepared to let Emmanuel Sanders to and take the draft pick. Numerous commentators of the Steelers press corps also concluded that letting Sanders go and taking the pick was the right move.
- Mike Tomlin and his offensive coaches ultimately won the day.
Hard to Understand the Steelers Logic on Sanders Unless…
Although there are pros and cons to resigning Sanders, taken at face value, this move is very hard to understand. Move brings the Steelers available salary cap space down to around $700,000, all but foreclosing the option that they will sign someone like Ahmad Bradshaw.
And should a team make a run at signing the Steelers two remaining restricted free agents Isaac Redman and/or Steve McLendon the Steelers would be virtually powerless to stop them – unless they wanted to do even more contract restructuring, which they clearly want and need to avoid..
In this age of the flat salary cap winning comes down to getting the most bang for your salary cap buck, and in that light it is not too hard to think that a low-priced rookie could produce the same kinds of numbers that Sanders produced.
However, the case for keeping Sanders is strong, particularly if the Steelers can meet one condition, namely, get him to agree to a more salary cap friendly long-term deal this summer in Latrobe.
As it stands, the Steelers will enter the season with Sanders as a starter. Sanders has shown promise since his rookie year, and even was elevated to co-starter status by Mike Tomlin last fall.
- But like the rest of the Steelers receiving corps, Sanders play suffered.
- Stability. With Mike Wallace in Miami and Heath Miller injured, the Sanders gives the Steelers and Ben Roethlisberger an option downfield
- Depth. The Steelers still must build their wide receiving corps, but along with Antonio Brown, Jerricho Cotchery and Plaxico Burress, the Steelers now have four legit NFL wide receivers.
While this isn't a reason to resign Sanders, per se, Sanders return also lowers the potential opportunity cost of seeing yet another player drafted very recently depart to another team.
Ultimately the Sanders decision will come down to two things – is the real Emmanuel Sanders the Hines Ward-like receiver they saw in the first half of 2012 and if so can they agree to a long-term deal at a reasonable salary?
If the answer to those two questions is yes, then the Steelers will have made the right move.
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