If the Patriots are willing to part with a 3rd round pick, Pittsburgh's tenuous cap situation could make it difficult to match.
Interestingly, Steelers wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders finds himself caught between two of the most dominant teams in the NFL over the last 10 years. Sanders was kept in restricted free agency when the Steelers gave him an original round tender offer, which the former third round pick hasn't signed.
He's designated at that level, and is open and available to discuss other offers from other teams, provided those teams are willing to part with a third round pick as well as make Sanders an offer.
The Steelers have the right to match any offer he might receive, but the question is, where is the line drawn? At what point would the Steelers match an offer, and at what point would they not?
The Patriots have a large amount of leverage over the Steelers, considering Pittsburgh's tenuous cap situation. It wouldn't have been surprising to learn the Steelers may have been in the process of another roster move, whether signing a free agent, or releasing or restructuring a current player.
For that exact reason, the Steelers could go either way in the event Sanders signs an offer sheet with the Patriots. On one hand, if the offer simply prices Sanders out of the Steelers' plans, they suddenly have an additional third round pick, but they'll also have one wide receiver under the age of 30, and only three on the active roster. But they'll also have an additional $1.3 million in cap space, minus the cost of a third round pick ($750,000, give or take).
Not coincidentally, that's only slightly less more than half the price of Sanders' RFA tag.
They put Sanders' value at a third round pick. That's what they'll get in exchange, so what price would be too high for the Steelers to match? Is there a price they would even match? Let us know your thoughts.