Steelers did not make Emmanuel Sanders an offer in free agency

Jason Bridge-US PRESSWIRE

One report says he will sign with the Broncos, another hints he was in Kansas City when the deal with the Broncos was allegedly made, but the constant is the report that says the Steelers didn't even make an offer for Sanders, the player the Steelers essentially gave up a third round pick for in 2013.

A report by ESPN's Adam Schefter Saturday evening that Emmanuel Sanders is expected to sign a free agent contract with the Denver Broncos was intensified by Baltimore Sun reporter Aaron Wilson's report that Sanders was in Kansas City for the night when Schefter tweeted his news.

So which is it?

While it's entertaining to think the Broncos just planted the news to create the impression they can sign away targets of division rivals literally while the player is in the rival's backyard, the larger picture point here came from Post-Gazette reporter Ed Bouchette, who had clearly been sitting on it, waiting for the announcement of Sanders going somewhere else.

The Steelers didn't even want Sanders back.

The subtle point is they could have received a third round pick in 2013 by letting the Patriots have Sanders, who gave him a one-year deal as a restricted free agent. The Steelers chose to match that offer instead, giving Sanders a 100 percent raise, adding to an already bloated salary cap and possibly changing the direction of the team's draft strategy.

While the Chiefs and Broncos and multiple NFL beat reporters will battle over who will - or has - signed Sanders, the Steelers sit back and recognize two transactions from 2013 that can be boiled down into a basic news item: The Steelers traded a 2013 third round pick and a 2014 third round pick for the rights to Sanders for a year and Shamarko Thomas, along with a 2015 as-of-now undetermined compensatory pick, and about $1.2 million in cash (difference between Sanders' RFA tendered amount and what they ended up paying him)

It's hard to see specifically what the motivation was, and while the full scope of Thomas's career (not to mention Markus Wheaton's) won't be realized for at least one more season, the ripple effect of both of those decisions is starting to shake the waters.

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