Curran: Decision time for Steelers on Sanders

Curran: Decision time for Steelers on Sanders
April 14, 2013, 11:30 am
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Emmanuel Sanders fact sheet

  • Turned 26 on St. Patrick’s Day
  • 5-11, 180 pounds from Bellville, Texas
  • Redshirted at SMU in 2005
  • Caught 46, 74, 67 and 98 balls from freshman through senior year.
  • Was suspended for final two games of junior year for violating coach June Jones’ “three-strike rule” involving missing practice, meetings or study sessions.
  • Was selected team captain as a senior.
  • Returned 54 kicks at SMU.
  • Ran a 4.4 at the 2010 NFL Combine
  • Had position versatility at receiver and even played some corner at SMU.
  • Third round pick by Steelers in 2010 (82nd overall)
  • Caught 28 passes as a rookie, 22 in his second season and 44 last year.
  • Has a career YPC average of 13.7 with five touchdowns.
  • Works on special teams returns and coverage.
  • Was fined $35,000 for faking an injury against the Bengals in 2012 in order to prevent the Steelers from using a timeout or taking a delay of game penalty.
  • Had surgery on both feet following the 2010 season.

It’s decision time for the Steelers.
By day’s end, Pittsburgh has to declare whether it will match the Patriots $2.5 million tender offer to restricted free agent wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, or let Sanders fly to New England in exchange for a third-round pick.
Looking at it from the Steelers perspective, New England put GM Kevin Colbert and his staff in a quandary with their offer.
If Pittsburgh matches the offer, Sanders’ pay rises from the tender offer of $1.3 to $2.5 million and, to stay under the cap at Sanders’ new number, the Steelers will have to re-work other contracts to do so. Troy Polamalu is the most likely candidate for that.
Pittsburgh doesn’t want to restructure more contracts. They’ve done that interminably and spent this offseason letting players like linebacker James Harrison go in a cash purge.
Letting Sanders go is a decision with a $3.8 million swing and, as the Dean of Steelers beat writers, Ed Bouchette from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, told me this week, the money saved on Sanders would allow Pittsburgh to sign Ahmad Bradshaw, the former Giants running back the Steelers have hosted twice.  
It would also put another pick in the Steelers’ kitty, giving them nine in this month’s draft.
I asked Bouchette -- as many around New England have mused -- why the Patriots didn’t make Sanders an offer for 2013 that would be even harder for the Steelers to match, $3.5 million or so?
Bouchette said he wondered the same thing and was told by a prominent agent, “It’s still Emmanuel &%^^$&* Sanders we’re talking about.”
And that’s a salient point. If the Steelers -- who knew they were going to lose Mike Wallace in free agency -- were petrified of losing Sanders, they would have given him a higher RFA tender. For just $700,000 more, any team offering Sanders would have had to cough up a second-round pick.
So for Pittsburgh, it’s really not the extra $1.2 million they’ll pay Sanders but the future impact of matching.
If Pittsburgh doesn’t match, the third-round pick will be a presumably good player under their control through 2016. For about the same money in total they’ll pay Sanders in 2013.
And when Sanders is an unrestricted free agent next March, the chance exists he’ll leave Pittsburgh regardless. Maybe he leaves for the Patriots, the team responsible for doubling his 2013 salary.
Or maybe he stays in Pittsburgh and does squat when asked to fill a bigger role with Wallace gone. He is, after all, Emmanuel &&%$#*& Sanders.