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Readers vote overwhelmingly to let Emmanuel Sanders go to New England

A poll of over 1,000 BTSC readers shows the vast majority is ok with letting restricted free agent wide receiver join the Patriots in exchange for a third round pick - 91st overall - in the upcoming NFL Draft.

Rich Schultz

We asked for your opinions on whether the Steelers should match a one-year, $2.5 million offer sheet restricted free agent Emmanuel Sanders signed with the Patriots, give him a long-term contract or let him walk.

In somewhat surprising results, the vast majority of those who voted are ok with letting Sanders join the Patriots in exchange for the 91st pick in the upcoming NFL Draft.

Nearly two-thirds of all voters (65 percent) said declining to match or offer a long-term deal to Sanders was the way to go. One quarter (25 percent) said signing him to a long-term deal is the best course of action and eight percent said matching the one year deal is the right decision.

The comments vary between the top two vote-getters as well, and some solid arguments are made for both sides.

Reader njblitzburghfan writes:

Pick and double dip
at WR this draft . Impact WR's are available such as Patterson , Hopkins, Hunter , Swope, Allen, Woods, Austin , Rogers etc;

These guys could come in and quite possibly fill those "shoes" and not be limited to a "one trick pony" type of receiver .

We'd tend to agree. There are impact receivers in this draft, particularly those likely to go in the first three rounds. USC's Robert Woods has met with the team, and Tennessee's Cordarrelle Patterson is a fan favorite, based on the results of several mock drafts.

Not that those should mean anything as far as the team goes, but it suggests fans can see other valuable receivers available, who would come for a cheaper long-term price than Sanders.

Steeler junky sees it a little differently, suggesting the team should match the deal, but wouldn't mind certain receivers available in the draft over Sanders.

Match it
The Steelers already have to draft one WR high enough to be a possible rookie starter in 2013. Which probably means one WR early and another late.
Finding two future starting WR in one draft is always a gamble. Would rather get one Starter in 2013 and let Sanders go in 2014 and look for another in the 2014 draft. Unless of course Sanders shows significant improvement in 2013.

Now if the Steelers were some how able to get WR DeAndre Hopkins Iwould gladly wave good by to Sanders

Unfortunately, they have to make a decision on whether to match it by 11:59 p.m. ET Sunday, well in advance of the draft, but odds of a receiver like DeAndre Hopkins being available for the Steelers to pick at least once, and maybe twice, are outstanding. That's likely one side the Steelers are weighing heavily.

There's always the salary cap aspect to this as well. A decision to let Sanders go to New England will free up $1.323 million in cap space in the elimination of Sanders' restricted free agency tender (not including the replacement cost). That would bring their pre-June 1 salary cap number to roughly $3.3 million under. Former Steelers OG Willie Colon's contract comes off the books after June 1, which will provide roughly the amount needed to sign the upcoming draft class.

Even with that, there's a concern of continuity, regardless of how the Steelers would spend that pick, or any others, in this draft. Obviously, they aren't forced to take a receiver with the Patriots pick, and while it's a position the Steelers are likely to address in the draft, there's no assurance on whether they will take a receiver.

This sentiment is captured by Regal Beagle, who writes:

Take the pick, but..
My first reaction was to take the pick (still leaning that way), which we could use an extra one anyway. But, I can't help thinking that this leaves Ben (our franchinse QB) with a relatively new group of receivers. With the window of opportunity closing, this is in itself a risk. Sure AB is still here, and there's history with Burress. And maybe Cotchery will be used more than last year.
Plus, Mark Kaboly of the Trib reported that matching the offer leaves us with aboutn 742k in cap space. So there's that.

Then there's the leery side to all of this. A pick is nice, and perhaps it's a move that, financially, makes far more sense, but long-term, the issue here isn't as much whether to keep Sanders; it's the amount of money Sanders will have to make to stay here for what could be just one year. StoneColdSteel brings this point up.


I really dont wanna take one of Ben's weapons away and leave us without a(n) opening day (starter) opposite Tony (Antonio Brown).
But at that price the Pats can have him. They most likely wont resign him after next season unless he really a quality season.

I think Phantaskippy posted a couple of statistics in another fanpost that pointed towards Sanders being a very average receiver when compared to other receivers chosen in the same round. With the way Keenan Lewis played last season, I wouldn't totally rule out him having a quality season and maybe matching Antonio Brown production, but we don't wanna bank on that premise. The problem is that his price tag makes have to restructure more contracts and push more money into the 2014 cap (some of this might've been avoided if Keisel was cut). The other problem is that we'd be getting back a 3rd round pick for Sanders, which is the round he was drafted in so in a sense its kinda like we're getting our original pick back(even though that pick is not guaranteed to work out).

On paper, it can be seen as a step backward, and when unable to apply the player acquired essentially in exchange for Sanders, it's fair to look at it black and white and see an issue with Sanders not being there in 2013. Besides, no one says the Steelers are done digging in free agency. ALDOG summarizes this stance nicely.

Cotchery, Plax and a rookie?
Add a healing Heath and a rookie RB and what do we have? A virtual guarantee at a top 15 pick next year. We had trouble scoring last won't get better. We need to keep Sanders, unfortunately. I am a bit perplexed that the Steelers did not see this coming....or did they? Curious how they handle this. Do we even have enough to go after Doucet?

ALDOG may be referring to Steve Breaston, not Early Doucet (both former Cardinals receivers), although his slip may be Freudian. Doucet was a third round pick in 2008, and, like Breaston, played in Todd Haley's offense previously. Doucet missed the final games of the 2012 season with concussion-related issues, and would likely struggle to sign with a team until training camp is underway (i.e. injury replacement) due to those concerns.

Breaston is in a very similar spot, but has been connected with the Steelers this offseason. It wouldn't be a surprise to see Breaston eventually back at the negotiating table, particularly in light of Sanders' possible (imminent?) departure - something we mentioned in that story.

The Steelers are taking the same wait-and-see approach with Ahmad Bradshaw, and while both have lingering medical issues, meaning the prudent thing to do is wait and see how those injuries heal, no one else is lining up to sign them.

That mentality forces us to frame the decision with Sanders a different way; is the acquisition of Breaston and a third round pick better than keeping Sanders on his own for more money?

The poll speaks volumes as to what you all feel generally about keeping that pick.